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Chatbots, Bikes: HIV Centers in Southeast Asia Adapt to Coronavirus


5 days later Coronavirus The blockade took place in Manila, and the charity Love Yourself hired 20 former motorcycle taxi riders to offer emergency courses on HIV, sign a nondisclosure agreement, and then send them to deliver life-saving medicines.

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-not only about getting Covid, but also about accessing HIV medications and other services. So make sure your critical services aren’t interrupted during this critical time. We needed to respond quickly.”

“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 prevent HIV-infected people from being treated and put their immune system at risk when infected with Covid-19. there is a possibility.

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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 blockade, I had to show identification and doctor’s notes to get the medicine,” said Richard Braggad, who is responsible for people living in an HIV response center in Manila. ..

“It exposed their HIV status, leading 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 4.7 million people lived in Thailand with HIV last year. In the Philippines, the number of cases was about 1 million, but in Indonesia it was reported to be 6.4 million in 2018.

According to UNAIDS, the blockades and border closures imposed to stop Covid-19 are affecting drug production and distribution, resulting in supply problems and increased costs, stagnating the progression of new infections. I am making it.

“In the last 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, director of the UNAIDS regional support team in the Asia-Pacific region. Murphy said.

“Key global goals for 2020 will not be met-Covid-19 risks aggravating 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 2 million 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, nearly half of the respondents said the blockade lost jobs and income, especially in sex workers, day-wage workers, entertainment and hospitality industries. States.

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 stranded in countries where they could not access HIV centers or their medications-including countries with greater stigma around HIV,” he said.

“But not even taking the HIV drug for a few weeks or taking another regimen could open the window to drug-resistant HIV. I’m worried that the outbreak will increase 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 greater prejudice against 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.

“Therefore, these continuations may be required,” 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 need to get a medical checkup, so I’m waiting to go back to Jakarta to collect the drug,” said Gates, who received the drug by mail in his hometown of Cianjur in West Java since the lockdown began. “

“I also like to meet people who understand me because I am afraid of stigma and discrimination in my city.”


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