The COVID-19 Effect Series: Part 1.

By April 3, 2020 May 8th, 2020 Learning, Publications, Regional

COVID-19 and its effects on diverse SOGIESC communities, HIV services and Key Populations

COVID-19 affects everyone, and preventive protocols are encouraged to prevent the ongoing spread of the virus. Governments have implemented policies and measures to address the situation. These measures include community quarantines, physical distancing, encouraging working from home, among others. Our partner organizations likewise have responded to these policies and present measures include reduced work hours and work days, working from home, and rescheduling and/or cancellation of planned activities

National and local governments have issued emergency decrees in response to COVID-19 which covers prohibitions against public activities and restrictions of residents’ mobility. This has impacted to our country partners’ outreach activities to get key populations to testing. Apart from limiting public activities, community outreach and professional staffs are required to stay at home, hence, the offices and clinics are operating in a reduced number of hours resulting to decreased number of clients. Delivery of HIV related services are also affected. From the information we have gathered, only in certain cases do some partners allow clients to come to clinic to get treatment. In some countries, most outreach and counselling are conducted virtually. Community-based organisations are postponing activities indefinitely. This include community and grassroots outreach, counselling services, hospital visits, family visits, and mobile health services. They are also gauging the effects of these restrictions and prohibitions in the long term.

Trainings, workshops and meetings are also affected. Community-based organisations are not able to gather community members and can only meet very limited number of people because of social distancing and restrictions on mass gatherings.

The length and severity of these measures by the government are unsure, hence, will continue until further notice with potential escalation if COVID-19 is not controlled. Dates are not determined as to when regular activities and operations can resume.

Effects on access to health services including mental health and on livelihoods

During these times where operations are interrupted, it is certain that members of the community are not accessing health services. In Pakistan, there are already cases of stock-outs of ARVs and unavailability of HIV services even before the COVID-19 outbreak. The pandemic will significantly increase the number of people not reached by these services, or number of people living with HIV (PLHIV) not getting proper treatment. Moreover, the affected community are living in financially distraught part of the cities, and living in a small space together with a number of occupants. The spread of infection may be unbearable for this group of the population.

In Mongolia, operating hours are reduced and there is a decrease of number of people who are accessing the HIV services. In Sri Lanka, other clinics are reported to be closing down for lack of human resources due to the curfews and lockdown. The PLHIV in Sri Lanka are not willing to access ART from the district level or public clinics due to stigma and discrimination against them. 

Even as the economic, psychosocial, and other effects affect the population in general, the present situation have some specific effects on the key populations and communities of diverse SOGIESC. These effects are on the community, organizational and individual levels.

COVID-19 is also affecting not only the organizations but also the individual community members. The measures taken by the government changed the working arrangements of our partners, which require adjustments both physically and mentally. The current situation has affected the mental health of the people. The uncertainty about the pandemic results in fear to the community. LGBTQI friendly mental health services, which are not easy to access, are even more difficult to access during these times.

Downturn of countries and cities during this pandemic have significantly affected the daily sustenance and survival of the communities we serve. Their ability to feed, maintain accommodation and pay for basic supplies like water and electricity are also affected.

The COVID-19 pandemic also affects the economic stability of the key population, LGBTQI and SOGIESC communities. Some LGBTQI individuals are in the service sector, some are in the informal economy and do not have permanents jobs. The closure of establishments where they are working with, the limitations on mobility affects their sources of income and thus, also affects their ability to secure basic needs during the quarantine period.

A specific sector affected are those dependent on begging and sex work as a source of livelihood. Larger number of key population clients in Bali, Indonesia, especially transgender women and gay men, and India, particularly transgender women and sex workers, have expressed sentiments of economic uncertainty. There has been a very limited support put in place by the national or local governments. Narratives that support from families, given that some LGBTQI individuals have estranged relationships with their families due to their sexual orientations, gender identities, and sex characteristics cannot be counted on at this time. 

In India, our partners are regularly in touch with members of the community. As a result of government ordered complete lockdown in India, Srishti Madurai has received reports of serious loss of livelihood amongst intersex people, transgender people and gender non-conforming people.

The same is true in Bali, Indonesia, where there is a significant effect on the economic livelihood of transgender women and gay men, who are the most vulnerable in the Balinese communities. Their ability to feed, maintain their accommodation and pay for basic necessities have significantly affected by the lockdown, restrictions to mobility and closures of establishments. In Jakarta, there is a need to increase efforts to help the LGBTQI community to quick and effective assistance to overcome the pandemic, particularly in term of access to logistic, as such food, water, hand sanitizer. The government says they will do regional quarantine, they will tighten up the access of people to enter Jakarta, the policy will impact to the living of LGBTQI Community. 

In Cambodia, the closure of establishments has resulted to loss of employment and source of income for some LGBTQI community who work in the service sector. During this time, they cannot earn anything and there is a need to respond to their aid such as basic food supplies, accommodation, safe spaces against acts of discrimination, and health services.

In addition, the salaries of outreach workers and staff of community based organisations are also dependent on the operations of HIV services. In the absence of activities and during office closures, the staff are unsure about their salaries.

Although it must be noted that there are provisions of financial and food support taken by other local governments and private sectors, these assistances are only for the short term.

Livelihood of the key population, SOGIESC people, and some staff of community-based organisations are placed vulnerable situations.


The COVID-19 Effect Series: Part 1
COVID-19 and its effects on diverse SOGIESC communities, HIV services and Key Populations

The COVID-19 Effect Series: Part 2
Community-Based Organisations in times of the pandemic

The COVID-19 Effect Series: Part 3
Possible effects on human rights of key populations and LGBTQI Community

The COVID-19 Effect Series: Part 4
A collective call for immediate response amid COVID-19 outbreak and government lockdowns

The COVID-19 Effect Series:
Community clinics in Thailand strives to provide HIV services amid COVID-19

The COVID-19 Effect Series:
A collective call for immediate response amid COVID-19 outbreak and government lockdowns