Many people have been able to work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic and continue to be paid, but low-income workers often haven’t had that opportunity.

In Indonesia, the latest labour force survey results show that 29 million workers have been affected by the pandemic, with 24 million workers suffering from cuts in hours of work and income. Average wages were depressed by 5.2% between 2019 and 2020. Surveys conducted by the Indonesia AIDS Coalition show that the situation is similar for people living with HIV and key populations—more than 80% of 529 respondents had experienced a reduction or loss of income due to the pandemic.

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Stranded in Nepal without HIV medicine

Wang Tang (not his real name) had never been to Nepal before, but at the end of March 2020 it was one of the few countries that had not closed its borders with China. Since he was desperate to get away from Beijing after having had to stay at home for months after the coronavirus outbreak spread throughout China, he bought a ticket.

But days after he arrived, while he was staying in Pokhara, the fourth stop on his trip, the local government announced that the city would be shut down. He heard that the lockdown would not last longer than a month.

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A new scoping review examines sexualized drug use (SDU) among men who have sex with men and transgender women in Asia, in order to understand the socio-sexual context of drug use, to inform effective HIV and drug policy and programmatic responses in Asia, and to guide future qualitative research in the region.

Bangkok, 10th March 2021 – To shed light on sexualized drug use among men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender women (TGW) in Asia, APCOM commissioned a scoping review of locally informed qualitative research under the technical guidance of Dr Angela Kelly-Hanku, Papua New Guinea Institute of Medical Research / Kirby Institute, University of New South Wales, Australia and Jamee Newland, University of New South Wales (Australia) and financial support of the UNAIDS Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific. The objective of APCOM’s scoping review, titled “A qualitative scoping review of sexualised drug use (including Chemsex) of men who have sex with men and transgender women in Asia”, was to inform effective HIV, harm reduction and programmatic responses in the region, and to guide future qualitative research in the Asia.

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Bangkok, Thailand, 8th of March, 2021 – To mark International Women’s Day, the International Community of Women Living with HIV Asia and the Pacific (ICWAP), in collaboration with UNAIDS AP, is launching a social media campaign on the leadership of women and girls living with HIV from Asia and the Pacific during the COVID-19 pandemic. The campaign calls to close in on inequalities that drive vulnerabilities to overcome the COVID-19 health crisis and end the AIDS epidemic.

This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world that celebrates the tremendous efforts by women and girls around the world in shaping a more equal future and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. International Women’s Day is a time to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by women and girls, who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities. “Women leaders have provided a guiding light for the world in responding to the COVID-19 crisis, from heads of government to coordinators of grass-roots social movements,” says Eamonn Murphy, UNAIDS Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific.

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“It was hard for us before COVID-19, but it has become even harder now,” said Ayu Oktariani, the National Coordinator of the Indonesia Positive Network of Women Living with HIV (IPPI). For more than 10 years, she has been working with women and adolescents living with HIV who have been subjected to domestic violence in Indonesia, providing them with psychosocial support and counselling. Since the first COVID-19 outbreak, she has seen increased requests for help, as violence has escalated alarmingly.

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Bangkok, Thailand, 5th of March, 2021 – To mark Zero Discrimination Day, UNAIDS AP launched a regional social media campaign that showcases the voices of people, communities and networks around the impact of inequalities and stigma and discrimination in Asia and the Pacific.

On Zero Discrimination Day this year, UNAIDS highlighted the urgent need to take action to end the inequalities surrounding income, sex, age, health status, occupation, disability, sexual orientation, drug use, gender identity, race, class, ethnicity and religion that continue to persist around the world. Inequality is growing for more than 70% of the global population, exacerbating the risk of division and hampering economic and social development. And COVID-19 is hitting the most vulnerable people the hardest—even as new vaccines against COVID-19 are becoming available, there is great inequality in accessing them.

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Bangkok, Thailand, 1st of March, 2021– To mark Zero Discrimination Day, APCOM launches a short report that compiles stories and articles published in the Covid-19 Effect Series, a newsletter created by APCOM to profiles issues, challenges and solutions from the LGBTQI communities and key populations across Asia and the Pacific. Since April 2020, with more than 19 issues, the series has provided a platform to leverage the voices of people living with HIV and LGBTQI to share stories, highlight challenges, showcase innovation and build strength within these communities.

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The transgender community has been severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in Asia and the Pacific. “My main worry is about survival and being able to support and cover the essential needs of the transgender community when job security is less and businesses are closing,” said Khartini Slamah, a transgender woman and activist from Sarawak, Malaysia, who is also known as Mama Tini in her community. “Many transgender people are unable to pay rent and utility bills, unable to do sex work, conduct their usual businesses. Some even lost their jobs,” she said.

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