BANGKOK, Friday 1 December 2017: The Asia Pacific response to HIV has been given a welcome dose of hope for today’s World AIDS Day following a landmark meeting of the region’s HIV and rights workers in Bangkok that will help develop new strategies for tackling the region’s HIV epidemic and its impact on vulnerable communities.
The strategies are set to flow from the RRRAP Summit (Rights, Resources and Resilience Asia Pacific) which was held in Bangkok just over 10 days ago. An initiative of Asia Pacific community network APCOM, the summit was attended by 300 members and influencers of the region’s response to HIV, community health and rights.
APCOM Executive Director Midnight Poonkasetwattana says the summit generated a valuable variety of new ideas and approaches that can help address the HIV epidemic, and advance human rights in Asia and the Pacific which is threatening to spiral out of control among transgender people and men who have sex with men (MSM).
“Right now, in many major cities across the region such as Bangkok and Jakarta, one third of MSM are HIV positive. In the Philippines, MSM account for over 80% of new transmissions, and in some cities in India up to half of their transgender populations are living with HIV,” Mr Poonkasetwattana says. “The future is even more concerning, with researchers estimating that MSM in the region will account for more than 150,000 new transmissions by 2020, around half of the total number of projected new infections.
“By any measure this is a totally unacceptable situation and today on World AIDS Day, it’s important that communities, governments and international agencies right across our region face up to the reality of how HIV is impacting on MSM and transgender people and commit themselves to taking meaningful action.
“However, on this important day for people affected by HIV, it’s also vital that we look to the future with hope and an optimistic sense of how we can work together to end HIV transmission and deliver a better life for millions of vulnerable and marginalized people across Asia and the Pacific. Our recent RRRAP Summit provided an extremely valuable platform for doing exactly this and we’re looking forward to using the knowledge, insights and recommendations offered by delegates to inform new and innovative approaches to addressing the impact of HIV on MSM and transgender people across our region.”
Some of the key concepts to emerge from the RRRAP Summit related to:
- Increasing access to HIV prevention drug PrEP for MSM and transgender people
- Engaging national governments with the health and fiscal benefits of directing funding and resources to groups at high risk of HIV, such as MSM and transgender people.
- Stemming the flow of international aid out of the region by convincing donors to commit to funding HIV programmes in Asia and the Pacific until sustainable financing mechanisms are in place in countries with high HIV prevalence.
- Broadening the scope of HIV prevention programmes to respond to issues related to ageing, youth, drug use, labour, migration and faith.
- Increasing the impact of rights-based advocacy by improving coordination of advocacy efforts among relevant civil society organisations.
In addition to looking to the future, Mr Poonkasetwattana says World AIDS Day provides us with an opportunity to reflect on the impact that HIV and AIDS has had and continues to have both locally and globally. “Today on World AIDS Day we remember and honour the millions of people across our region and throughout the world who have died of an AIDS-related illness as well as the people and loved ones who cared for them. And we pay tribute to the courage and determination of the of millions of people in Asia and the Pacific and the tens of millions around the world who live with HIV and the many challenges they confront as a result.“