Garfield and volunteers at Sisters Foundation in Pattaya, Thailand distributed emergency relief supplies to the transgender community during the first outbreak of COVID-19 in April 2020. Photo credit: APTN

More than a year has passed since the COVID-19 was declared a pandemic. COVID-19 cases and deaths continue to rise, with some countries seeing dramatic surges in cases in recent months. Increasing inequality and stigma and discrimination towards people living with HIV and key populations continue to disrupt peoples’ access to HIV prevention and treatment services.  

Since the first COVID-19 outbreak in the region, UNAIDS Asia Pacific has continued to work alongside regional key population networks to support communities to mitigate the impact of the pandemic. Through a regional project ‘Strengthening the regional community response to the needs of key populations in the context of COVID-19 in Asia and the Pacific’ funded by UNAIDS AP, with general support from the Department of Foreign and Trade of Australia (DFAT), key population networks promoted access to relevant and timely information about COVID-19 targeted to key populations and people living with HIV, assessed their challenges and needs and recorded best practices from community-led responses. 

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The UNAIDS family is deeply saddened by the death from COVID-19 of our dear colleague and friend, Manuel de Quinta. We offer our deepest condolences to his husband Ricardo and to his family and friends in general. 

Since 2017, Manuel worked as a UNAIDS Community Support and Human Rights Adviser for the multicountry UNAIDS Office for Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay. But many of us knew him in the many roles he held and the tremendous work he did around the world as part of the UNAIDS family for more than 24 years advocating for the rights and leadership of people living with HIV and the populations most vulnerable to HIV, including the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community, migrants and refugees, sex workers, indigenous peoples and young people.

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COVID-19 continues to threaten the gains made in the HIV response and has brought inequalities to the forefront, but civil society and community-based organizations in Asia and the Pacific have been quick to respond to the pandemic. From the start, networks of people living with HIV and key populations responded to the global health crisis by coming up with innovative courses of action.

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Since the United Nations High-Level Meeting on Ending AIDS in 2016, the young key populations’ movement and its visibility have grown considerably in Asia and the Pacific. Through their engagement with national and regional networks of key populations, more and more young people have taken up space in decision-making processes and in mobilizing resources to support local and national organizations. However, despite those important efforts, more needs to be done to meaningfully engage young key populations in the HIV response as leaders, beneficiaries and partners.

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SHARING CASE STUDIES FOR CHANGE: CELEBRATING AND LEARNING FROM CIVIL SOCIETY-LED RESPONSES TO HIV AND COVID-19 IN ASIA AND THE PACIFIC

With the upcoming United Nations High-level Meeting on HIV and AIDS only days away, kickstart your HLM experience with the Asia – Pacific virtual side event!

This side event will showcase the strength of communities with speakers from different countries throughout Asia and the Pacific, celebrate their innovative and effective HIV & COVID-19 response and hear the lessons they have learned along the way. 

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Event Banner for the Young Key Populations Side Event

Young key populations leadership and innovations in the HIV response in Asia and the Pacific

The young key populations’ side event at the High-Level Meeting on HIV and AIDS 2021 will highlight YKP specific issues from the Asia Pacific and shed light on the current HIV epidemic amongst YKPs. The panel consisting of young key populations, youth innovators, the Ambassador of Health and Security Australia and the Government of Thailand will share ground-breaking programs, lessons learned, and testimonies from young key populations leaders. The side event will also offer good examples of YKP leadership and their contributions to the HIV response, including the COVID-19 response and share lessons learned from innovative HIV and SRHR programs targeted to YKP.

Date and Time: Monday 7th June 2021 at 13:00 – 14:30 (Bangkok Time)

How: Streamed live via YouTube https://youtu.be/vWqQtlOG0cc | Facebook: facebook.com/YouthLEADAP

Click here to view the concept note for this side event

This side event is co-organised by Youth LEAD, UNAIDS Asia Pacific, UNFPA APRO, UNICEF EAPRO and UNDP Bangkok Regional Hub

For Vanessa Chaniago, a young transgender woman living in Jakarta, Indonesia, the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic were filled with fear. “I was really struggling to make ends meet. I had been working for a civil society organization, which was a great place to learn and develop strong networks, but unfortunately the income was not sufficient to sustain me and my family. My income drastically declined,” she said.

According to a survey conducted by the Crisis Response Mechanism (CRM) Consortium of 300 lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people in Indonesia, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused most LGBTI people to have experienced layoffs or reductions in income or to close their businesses. Most LGBTI people work in sectors with a higher risk of COVID-19: 20.5% in the beauty industry, 19.5% in the health sector and 12.8% in the service industry. Unfortunately, most of the respondents do not have long-term savings—30% would only be able to survive for two to three months on their savings, and 64% are not able to access loans.

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Together: Resisting, Supporting, Healing!

Message by Eamonn Murphy, UNAIDS Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific

Today, the 17th of May is the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Intersexism and Transphobia. This year’s theme is “Together: Resisting, Supporting, Healing!”

The powerful theme was chosen due to the recent challenges that the world has faced this past year.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer people and people in all their diversity continue to face high levels of violence and inequalities. Punitive laws continue to criminalize their behaviours, identities and gender expressions. Stigma and discrimination is still pervasive and jeopardizes their access to health, education and work.

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