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Features-Chatbots, Bikes: Southeast Asian HIV Centers Adapt to Coronavirus


BANGKOK, July 22 (Thomson Reuters Foundation)-Five days after the coronavirus blockade was imposed in Manila, the charity LoveYourself hires 20 former motorcycle taxi riders to provide emergency courses on HIV and keep it confidential. After signing, I sent it to deliver life-saving medicine. agreement.

DanYour Rosadino, Senior Program Manager at LoveYourself, said many of the 6,000 clients of the charity would go to the center for drugs, tests and other services due to restrictions on mobility and lack of public transport in the city. I said I couldn’t.

The center also told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that it has added staff to run hotlines and social media platforms, introduced chatbots, and launched a pilot self-test program to help dangerous people test HIV at home. ..

“Everyone was worried about getting a COVID, but also the inability to access HIV medications and other services. So quickly so that important services aren’t interrupted during this critical time. Had to deal with,” he said.

“At the same time, maintaining confidentiality was also very important. The medicines were packaged in brown paper bags, drivers were unobtrusive, and they met clients outside their home if they didn’t want home delivery. was.”

According to the HIV/AIDS group, which is worried about the surge in infections after coronavirus infection, lockdowns leave HIV-infected people untreated and endangering their infected immune system when infected with COVID-19. there is a possibility.

They also face harassment from authorities, fearing that the collection of health data related to coronaviruses exposes their HIV status and exposes them to more discrimination.

“During the lockdown, people had to show identification and doctor’s notes to get the medicine,” Richard Bragado, responsible for those living in Manila’s HIV response center. Said.

“It made their HIV status public and led to some examples of harassment and public shame,” he said.

Missing target

Currently, approximately 38 million people worldwide are infected with HIV, and since the beginning of the 1980s, the AIDS pandemic has killed approximately 35 million people worldwide.

In the Asia-Pacific region, approximately 5.8 million people live with HIV, 3.5 million are receiving antiviral drug (ARV) treatment, and because the virus levels drop, the virus does not spread and a full-scale AIDS You can prevent it.

According to UNAIDS, about 470,000 people lived with HIV last year in Thailand. There are close to 100,000 cases in the Philippines and 640,000 in Indonesia in 2018.

According to UNAIDS, the blockades and border closures imposed to stop COVID-19 are affecting the production and distribution of medicines, leading to supply problems and increased costs, and the development of new infectious diseases. Stagnate

“Over the past decade, the decline in new HIV infections has stagnated in the Asia-Pacific region, but declines have been reported in some Southeast Asian countries,” said Eamonn Murphy, director of the UNAIDS Regional Support Team in the Asia-Pacific region. States.

“The major global goals of 2020 will not be achieved. COVID-19 risks compromising the situation.”

Loss of work and income is partly responsible. The International Labor Organization estimates that almost half of the world’s workforce is at risk of losing a living.

SWING, a Thai HIV non-profit organization for sex workers, has begun to cater to some of the estimated 200,000 sex workers who had no income during the lockdown, said co-founder Surang Janyam. She said that many also lost their homes.

In a survey of young people living with HIV in the Asia-Pacific region in April, blockades killed nearly half of the respondents, particularly in sex workers, day-paid wage workers, and employment and income in the entertainment and hospitality industries. I was told.

About half of people receiving ARV treatment said lockdowns made it difficult to get the drug, and about one-fifth said they had no supplements on hand.

Many also said they also experienced delayed or disrupted access to HIV prevention services and psychological support.

Founder Deyn Natthakhet Yaemim has stepped up home delivery and online counseling of medicines and test kits at the Pulse clinic in Bangkok, which provides HIV services.

Due to its reputation for providing LGBT-friendly and quality medical care, many people living with HIV in the region have come to Thailand to buy and test ARVs, but the border has been closed. Since then, I have not been able to purchase it.

“People were stuck in HIV centers and in countries where medications were unavailable-including countries with significant prejudice against HIV,” he said.

“But not taking HIV for even a few weeks, or taking another regimen, could pave the way for drug-resistant HIV. I’m worried that there may be a surge in infections after COVID-19.”


Earlier this month, the World Health Organization (WHO) said 73 countries had warned that they would be at risk of shortages of ARV drugs as a result of coronavirus pandemics.

Modeling exercises by WHO and UNAIDS in May showed that a six-month interruption in access to ARVs could lead to a doubling of AIDS-related deaths in sub-Saharan Africa in 2020 alone.

In Thailand, authorities are working with community organizations to encourage people at risk and those living with HIV to receive tests and medications, said Tawi Sap Sirapapasili, chief government health officer. ..

Organizations in countries with a high stigma for HIV had to innovate.

In the Philippines, #OplanARVayanihan (ARV and bayanihan, or a combination of community spirits) will provide information about your nearest ARV center and delivery options.

Some services, such as courier and online counseling, help maintain confidentiality and may be useful after a pandemic, according to Murphy from UNAIDS.

“There are, therefore, many demands for continuing these,” he said.

However, Acep Gates, an HIV-positive activist who usually goes to Jakarta to collect drugs once a month, has nothing to beat friendly exchanges in countries where discrimination against LGBT+ people and HIV-infected people is increasing.

“I’m waiting to go back to Jakarta to collect my medicines because I need to have a health checkup,” said the drug by mail in the hometown of Cianjur in West Java since the lockdown began. Said Gates.

“I’m afraid of stigma and discrimination in my city, so I also like to meet people who understand me there.” (Reported by Rina Chandran @ rinachandran, edited by Belinda Goldsmith Charity at Thomson Reuters Credit to the Thomson Reuters Foundation, which covers the lives of people all over the world who suffer from freedom and just life, visit http: // news.


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