TREAT Asia Focuses on MSM and Community Advocacy at ICAAP
October 2009—Reaching vulnerable populations and involving affected communities in the implementation of HIV services were two of the major issues addressed by TREAT Asia and amfAR representatives at the ninth International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific (ICAAP), held in August in Bali.
At a pre-conference meeting on HIV among men who have sex with men (MSM), amfAR CEO Kevin Robert Frost presented a new amfAR report calling for a robust research effort to help understand the most effective models for HIV prevention, treatment, care, and support among MSM in Asia and the Pacific. The report, Ensuring Universal Access to Comprehensive HIV Services for MSM in Asia and the Pacific, warns that if HIV prevention does not improve, "MSM will soon account for the largest proportion of people living with HIV in Asia." It outlines an agenda for operations research that could guide organizations and governments in developing an effective range of programs that could be incorporated in national AIDS strategies and donor initiatives.
At the conference, TREAT Asia's MSM program coordinator Hua Boonyapisomparn gave a plenary presentation on the need for collaboration between health systems and the communities they serve. She offered examples of successful programs in India, Thailand, and China for which TREAT Asia provides technical support, and used her own experiences as a transgender person to illustrate the need for community involvement.
"Without community advocates who can identify and address these gaps in care for transgender people, our voices will not be heard and our health needs will not be met," she said. "We need to invest in the community as much as we need to pay for medicines and blood testing."
In addition, TREAT Asia community program manager Jennifer Ho presented a poster on the involvement of people living with HIV in the work of AIDS Care China, a TREAT Asia-supported organization that provides treatment education and support services.