By Aditia Taslim Lim, Asia-Pacific PCB NGO Delegate
Last April 29-May 1, I had the opportunity to attend the UNAIDS Asia Pacific Regional Management Meeting in Bangkok, Thailand. The meeting was attended by the Senior Management Team from Geneva, country directors and national staff from the region. As NGO Delegate from Asia-Pacific, I spoke in the panel, “Programming in Asia and the Pacific - Putting us in the Frame” along with other speakers from regional key population networks. I also took part in a second panel on “Harnessing social media to promote HIV prevention and increase the uptake of HIV services."
Some of my key messages and interventions during the discussion and throughout the meeting were as follows:
Asia and the Pacific Region Requires Attention
Asia Pacific requires political and global attention to influence changes, especially where the global dialogue remains largely focused on Africa. UNAIDS leadership needs to be stronger and bolder and it is expected that the recent appointment of the Deputy Executive Director for Programmes can influence the changes.
Data quality and availability are still inadequate and/or outdated. This includes lack of data on prisoners and understanding issues around other priority populations, including migrants and people on the move, young people, and indigenous people.
As agreed in the 2016 Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS, Member States should invest no less than 30% on community-led services and 6% on social enabling activities of the total AIDS expenditure. The current reporting mechanisms, i.e. the Global AIDS Monitoring and National AIDS Spending Assessment - do not provide enough information to understand how much investment is made to community-led services.
Harm reduction services have been stagnant, and in some countries, funding has dropped significantly, including closure of HR services. Heroin is coming back in Indonesia with a low price, and we currently have a major problem with stock-outs of needles and syringes. I am particularly concerned with the increase of (potential) overdose cases - where Naloxone is not available.
We need to learn from countries like Cambodia who stated they achieved the 90-90-90 targets, whether they have become a victim of their own achievement. Donors are moving away, and the government is not ready to fully invest in the HIV response. There are also issues around other health priorities that require more investment, as well as addressing corruption. I also highlighted funding for civil society and the risk of not having community advocacy and activism through social contracting.
There are real issues of human rights violations that we have not addressed. This include mass incarceration of people who use drugs and extrajudicial killings that are happening in several countries, which may be influenced directly or indirectly by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s punitive war on drugs. The mass incarceration in Cambodia following Duterte’s visit in 2018 or Sri Lanka praising the iron fist approach, need to be urgently addressed.
I expressed my concern over that many of the processes currently happening in Geneva are not communicated well to UNAIDS country offices. It is very important that global initiatives and exercises are informed by country needs and therefore provides impactful support and benefits to the national response.
Communication and Innovation
Key Populations have moved into virtual spaces. It is considered a safer space for many people who experience marginalisation and criminalisation. UNAIDS needs to be better in using advanced technology and addressing the needs of Key Populations in virtual spaces and to really maximise the role of the Office of Innovation.
The RMM also engaged with the communities and Key Populations that covered important areas such as Meeting Our Commitment, Universal Health Coverage, Game Changers and Use of Social Media.
UNAIDS is still a best practice in bringing up the voices of the community, and there is space for working differently, especially in the context of the UN Reform. One lesson that I have learned from working with UNAIDS in Indonesia is through the engagement of community representatives at the Joint Team of UN Cosponsors as part of the Country Envelope engagement process and to help shape and design the implementation. This also enables the community to have further influence and voice in other UN Cosponsors, not just in UNAIDS.
Photos courtesy of UNAIDS RST Asia Pacific