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HIV leaders meet in Asia to tackle region’s HIV epidemic

HIV leaders meet in Asia to tackle region’s HIV epidemic

APCOM staff and ambassadors at RRRAP Summit

Some of the Asia Pacific’s leading HIV advocates met in Bangkok to work out ways to tackle the region’s HIV epidemic and its impact on people of diverse sexual orientation, gender identity and expression (SOGIE).

300 HIV and community leaders attended the RRRAP Summit (Rights, Resources and Resilience Asia Pacific) in mid-November.

The five-day event summit was an initiative of APCOM, a leading regional HIV and SOGIE community network.

APCOM Executive Director Midnight Poonkasetwattana said a lot has been achieved in relation to the region’s broad response to HIV over the last 10 years.

But the epidemic in Asia and the Pacific is threatening to spiral out of control among transgender people and men who have sex with men (MSM).

‘The impact that HIV is having on MSM and transgender communities in Asia and the Pacific is escalating at an alarming rate, 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,’ he said.

In cities such as Bangkok in Thailand and Jakarta in Indonesia, one third of MSM are HIV positive. The Philippines has one of the highest rates of new HIV cases in the world and MSM account for over 80% of new transmissions there.

India does not fare better with almost 50% of trans people living with HIV.

‘This is a massive public health issue that’s set to get worse if we don’t get more engagement and support from national governments and local communities right across the region, as well as more targeted assistance from international donors and agencies,’ Poonkasetwattana said.

‘If we’re going to move Asia and the Pacific closer to a sustainable future that’s free of HIV and inclusive of all sexualities and gender identities, we need to navigate a more effective way forward, and this is what APCOM’s RRRAP Summit aims to do.’

One of the main theme’s of the summit was addressing the growing tide of persecution against SOGIE people in the region.

The 300 delegates also looked at developing new and innovative funding models to address the shifting international aid agenda.