Bangkok – The United Nations Development Programme’s Asia-Pacific Regional Centre (APRC) has signed a US $16.7 million Grant Agreement with the Global Fund to Fights AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria for a multi-country South Asia HIV Programme.
The two and half years Programme aims to reduce the impact of HIV on men who have sex with men (MSM), transgender people, and hijras in South Asia, namely Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
Rates of HIV among MSM and transgender people in many countries across South Asia are significantly higher than those in all other adults groups. High levels of marginalization, stigma and discrimination in health and welfare service are very often a barrier to prevention and care and support services. In addition, it has been documented across the region that community implemented HIV prevention, treatment and care and support services through peer education are often interrupted by local authorities as a result of police harassment of staff and outreach workers, many of whom are MSM, transgender or hijra peer educators.
To address these critical issues, the Programme in Phase 2 will continue to focus on strengthening community systems to improve coordination with local governments and health care providers, deliver concentrated and quality capacity development support, and provide technical assistance to ensure high intervention impact and sustainability.
“This Programme provides a foundation to ensure regional and country-level community networks continue to be an essential partner in the HIV response and that the voice of MSM and transgender people be heard,” said Mr. Haoliang Xu, Regional Director of the UNDP Regional Bureau for Asia Pacific (RBAP). “UNDP and our UN partners look forward to working with the Global Fund, our community partners and governments on implementation of the Programme to further promote and protect the rights of these highly marginalized populations in South Asia.”
To align with regional strategies and national programmes, APRC will work with two regional community advocacy organizations, the Asia Pacific Coalition on Male Sexual Health (APCOM) and the Asia Pacific Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS (APN+), on a broad range of activities that include support to regional and national policy development, advocacy and technical support, and research.
At the national level, critical community strengthening and advocacy activities will be directly implemented by the Naz Male Health Alliance (NHMA) in Pakistan; Blue Diamond Society (BDS) in Nepal; and the Bandu Social Welfare Society (BSWS) in Bangladesh. In Bhutan, the Programme will support National AIDS Control Programme (NACP) to develop rights-based interventions and strengthen engagement of civil society. National implementing partners in India and Sri Lanka will be recruited.
“The Programme is an innovative initiative for the South Asia region, which provides a platform to enhance and elevate the capacity of MSM, transgender people, and hijras to a level where the communities can finally have the opportunity to be self-reliant by empowering each other through various capacity building exercises,” said Qasim Iqbal, Executive Director of the Naz Male Health Alliance based in Lahore, Pakistan. “The Programme strengthens the notion that the best results are produced when the community works for the community. For the first time, the otherwise ignored communities finally have a glimmer of hope for a healthy and better life.”
The Programme is guided by a Country Coordination Mechanism (CCM) Regional Steering Committee comprised of national government and civil society members, including people living with HIV (PLHIV). It has been endorsed by all seven national CCMs of participating countries.
As the technical assistance provider during Phase 1, UNDP focused on convening regional and supporting national level advocacy dialogues on HIV, advocacy and human rights and producing key research documents. To achieve these results, the UNDP’s Asia-Pacific Centre built strong regional partnerships with the South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation in Law (SAARCLAW), the Asia Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions (AFP), International Development and Law Organization (IDLO), UNAIDS and WHO. The Programme will continue to benefit from these partnerships in Phase 2. In addition to South Asia, the Centre also provides technical assistance under the Islands of Southeast Asia Network and HIVOS multi-country Global Fund programme covering Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Timor-Leste.