Youth Voices Count (YVC), a regional network of young LGBTIQ+ people in the Asia Pacific region based in Iloilo City, the Philippines is currently gathering information from its members on ongoing emergency responses to COVID-19 for young LGBT people and young key populations in the region.
YVC will be leading several dialogues with its members in the coming week on how their members from across the region are dealing with the pandemic. Although the dialogues will largely be focused on possible human rights violations against young LGBT people on the basis of their SOGIESC, the dialogues will also look at the effects of the pandemic on young people living with HIV.
In view of the ongoing outbreak of COVID-19 worldwide and its impact on the welfare of the general population, APCOM Foundation has developed a Precautionary Protocol as general guidance and advice for APCOM secretariat against the possible spread of the virus. The protocol could be accessed here.
APCOM also initiated discussions with partner organizations and communities they work with to gather information about the COVID-19 situation in their countries, on the effects of COVID-19 to the community and the immediate needs arising from the pandemic. A series of stories and articles have been developed from the information gathered and through this series, APCOM aims to reflect the realities on the ground faced by the constituents they serve, which might be missed out in the present COVID-19 narratives.
The full set of stories could be accessed here.
Based on these narratives, APCOM has also come up with recommendations which will contribute to our collective response to this pandemic. The recommendations include;
- Ensure that the promised and obligated funding dedicated for key populations, community-led HIV services, community systems strengthening, and HIV programs remains the same and not significantly reduced so as to continue the health service delivery at the community level;
- Allow flexibility for regional key population networks and country-based networks and CBOS to create and broaden online-based activities aimed at key populations. The results of this work should be considered in the indicator;
- Allow the community-based organisations who are working with at-risk-populations to procure COVID-19 rapid test kits, and work with the relevant government agencies to implement mass COVID-19 testing for key populations and LGBTQI communities;
- Heighten the support to community-based organisations providing testing and ART to key populations to allow continuity and increase coverage for HIV service delivery and other health services to key populations who are marginalised by the COVID-19 outbreak;
- Allow flexibilities for timelines and project implementation. The communities working on HIV and LGBTQI are currently affected by the impact of the pandemic particularly physical health, mental health, and human rights. Communities are adjusting to work from home and coordinate remotely while being considerate to other members of staff and networks who might not be able to do so due to lack of access to the internet. Furthermore, the uncertainty of when the quarantine would end and when regular operations would resume is detrimental to the implementation of this project.
- Provide tools on precautionary and preventive measures to guide organisations in protecting and safeguarding its staff, partners and clients amid global pandemic. The community-based networks’ and organisations’ utmost priorities are the safety and security of its workforce while continuing services to clients with fewer interruptions as possible. The donors and technical support agencies should acknowledge this by supporting CBOs to put in place operational protocols that can be observed by staff and community members;
- Organise online training or webinars on emergency life-saving protocols, technical guidance and support on navigating uncertain circumstances such as global pandemic while continuing the delivery of services under situations of lockdown;
- Provide basic preventive materials such as hand sanitizers and masks for the staff and clients of HIV and LGBTQI community-based organisations. There is a shortage of all those supplies from the market due to the situation. Although CBOs are already providing sanitizers and masks for the staff and clients, they are procured at very high prices from private suppliers. It is challenging for CBOs to procure preventive materials at the country level
APCOM would like to acknowledge their country partners and communities in building this first set of information on the effects of COVID-19 and hope to collect and build on the voices from the ground to cover more countries from the Asia Pacific region.