What’s UP? Thailand News.

July 1, 2009

On 28–30 May 2009, the Thailand government held the XII National AIDS Seminar – Half of by 2011. Where are we? It was organized with the participation of Thai NGO Coalition on AIDS – TNCA, – that is composed of 17 networks and the Thai Network of People living with HIV/AIDS – TNP+. They created an official CS committee for organizing the National Seminar that had around twenty NGOs attending the meetings. Both TNCA and TNP+ used their communication channels to spread information among their members – around 850 groups of NGO and people living with HIV. Civil society also organized specific symposiums, skill-building workshops, community spaces and campaign activities during the seminar. It was informed by the media that around twenty-five hundred people attended the meeting, half of them organized civil society and PLHA groups and the other half government personnel.

Sign by the Youth Network of People Living with HIV

Sign by the Youth Network of People Living with HIV

The importance of strengthening communication channels with CS is a key part of the government’s response in Thailand. Although the country is recognized because succeeded in addressing AIDS in many ways , this success does not guarantee that the HIV epidemic will come to a halt. In particular, the roots of the problem still exist and have often been overlooked by many policies in place.

Although, the communication channels between CS and government are not always reflected in the level of support accessed by civil society, particularly when related to funds allocation. The XII National Seminar was estimated by the media to cost 12 million Bahts. However it did face a lack of funds for CS participation that drove sex-worker groups to creates strategies on how to raise funds in order to participate in Seminar. Initially they decided to work harder (as sex workers) to support their own participation, but soon they realized that they would not be able to cover all their colleagues’ costs for traveling and lodging. They calculated how many clients they should attend, the number of days working, and how many of them would be necessary to engage to cover all people who wanted to attend the seminar. It would come short anyway. The mobilization was large and the idea led to an urgent meeting between NGOs and government to see how the matter could be solved. The result was that CS got support to include more one hundred people in the official budget. This is a very good example of how civil society mobilization works in Thailand.

UNGASS-AIDS: Monitoring Tool

Sexual and reproductive health in discussion at the Thai XII National AIDS Seminar

Sexual and reproductive health in discussion at the XII National AIDS Seminar in Bankok, Thailand.

The National Seminar was also an important moment where the government expressed how helpful the UNGASS-AIDS Declaration of Commitment is to encourage both government and civil society to pay more attention to putting in place better M&E strategies for AIDS and health policies. Thailand is about to receive a new round of resources from the Global Fund – it will receive 100 million dollars for strengthening overall health system, and monitoring migrant, IDU, sex workers and MSM populations. The need to address these specific populations is evident. They estimate in three million the migrant population in the country, mainly coming from Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar. When they get infected with HIV or tuberculosis it is hard to access medicines, and without funds to pay for it, the situation has become a nightmare for them. The national health system is not prepared to absorb it and it is evident that there is no clear policy in place for addressing migrant women.

But even recognizing the need of the most affected populations, the problems in fact are much more complex and addressing all of them will require a more integrated, interdisciplinary, approach. Nowadays, for instance, one of the major challenge for the HIV/AIDS situation in Thailand is the increasing rate of HIV among youth – young sex workers, IDU, migrants, MSM, etc.

Government data showed that 1.127.168 cases of AIDS and symptomatic HIV infection were reported to the division of epidemiology. In total, 613.510 people died because of AIDS and, in 2008, eleven thousand new cases were registered. Only 19% of the general population has been tested. This percentage increases for sex workers (52.60%) and for MSM (34.90%,) however there is no data available for IDU. The government informed that 52.90% of the people who needs it are receiving ARV treatment, and PMTCT has been available 93.96% of the time.

It was also showed that AIDS is rapidly spreading among women. The 2008 UNGASS report showed that the ratio of HIV infection among women and men has significantly increased from 1:7 in the early days of the epidemic to 1:2.5 in 2005. From 2002, the morbidity of female youth (15–19 year-olds) has been higher than male youth at the same age (2:1). The youth groups at 15-24 years tend to have a high level of unsafe sex. According to the national behavioral surveillance survey (BSS) conducted by the Ministry of Public Health (MOPH), the percentage of youth that have ever had sex is increasing, and with low condom usage. This unsafe sex correlates with the increased incidence of HIV infection and unwanted pregnancy among youth.

UNGASS-AIDS Forum in the National AIDS Seminar

Discussions about the UNGASS-AIDS Declaration of Commitment were made in many sessions. Civil Society expressed that, according to the CS report for UNGASS 2008, the vast majority of HIV positive women face more difficulty in life, many carrying more burden after their husband dies. Moreover, stigmatization from their own communities prevents them from participating in everyday activities that are part of normal life. In addition, the inadequate information hinders accessibility to treatment, ARV, or appropriate counseling and other support activities in relation to the HIV/AIDS epidemic mitigation.

Thai UNGASS-AIDS Forum group in the XII National AIDS Seminar

Thai UNGASS-AIDS Forum group in the XII National AIDS Seminar

One of the sessions in the National Seminar presented the study performed in 2008 by the UNGASS-AIDS Forum that collected data for monitoring the implementation of the national sexual and reproductive health policy in response to HIV/AIDS in Thailand. The area covered the implementation process of PMTCT strategies in nine provinces of five parts across the country.  It was done from November 2007 to January 2008 with a total samples of 195 key informants, among them 108 HIV infected pregnant women.

The study, coordinated by the RaksThai Foundation analyzes information according to the process of PMTCT implementation in state hospitals, both at the community and provincial levels, in the nine provinces. [Access it on the link Reports]

And the good news is that government decided to implement a national research on PMTCT based on the research findings that highlights what the gaps still are on this program. An example of civil society proactively contributing to better implementation of public health services.

Synthesis of the UNGASS-AIDS Forum in Thailand:

Held the 1st Forum in September 2007 with the participation of seventeen NGOs, networks, and Dr. Petchsri Sirinirun, Director of Epidemiology of the Ministry of Public Health.

Concluded the research and, in January 2008, held the 2nd Forum to validate the collected data together with a national consultation with the Thai government. Over three hundred representatives of NGOs, networks, Government and UNAIDS took part in the event.

The SRH and AIDS report produced by civil society focused on PMTCT was included as an annex in the National Report sent to UNAIDS in 2008, and Ms. Sunee Talawat, representative of the UNGASS-AIDS Forum Thailand was included in the national delegation for the HLM in the UN.


Strengthening sexual and reproductive health actions in AIDS policies

May 11, 2009

Between February 2007 and June 2008, Gestos, with support from the Ford Foundation, among other partners, acted upon to consolidate the formation of a network of sixteen countries, from Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Eastern Europe, with the objective of monitoring and evaluating public policies of sexual and reproductive health and rights of women with HIV/AIDS.

There was a total of 433 groups and national advocacy networks of the Women’s, AIDS’ and Human Rights’ movements that acted politically on the issue, having as reference the monitoring of the Declaration of Commitment signed at UNGASS-AIDS 2001.

The results of the experience were systematized at Monitoring the UNGASS-AIDS Goals on Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health comparative report, launched at the UNGASS-AIDS review meeting, June 2008, New York. The Comparative Report was sent officially to UNAIDS as a civil society shadow report. According to the then UNAIDS Executive Director, Dr Peter Piot, “this was the only document produced for UNGASS-AIDS that deals with critical questions to sexual and reproductive health of women living with HIV/AIDS or in a vulnerable situation.”

Ms Alessandra Nilo, Coordinator of the Political Pedagogical Program of Gestos, announced that, in the period of 2009–2011, besides articulating with the partners network to participate in the national processes of monitoring UNGASS-AIDS, the main strategy will be to design advocacy plans in each one of the countries aiming at including sexual and reproductive health as a priority axis in the National AIDS Plans. “The objective is to include the issue of the interface of sexual and reproductive health and AIDS in the political agendas in the countries participating in the project; in the moments of UN reviewing Universal Access, in the strategies of monitoring International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD+15) and the IV Women Conference (Beijing+15), as well as the next International AIDS Conference, to be held in Vienna in 2010.” Concludes her with what it seems her monitoring advocacy mantra.

Because of budget constraint, not all countries that participated in the first phase of the project will participate in the second phase. Raising funds in a time of economic crisis has become ever more difficult. In the new phases the countries where there will be UNGASS-AIDS Forum: Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health are: Argentina, Brazil, Uruguai, Peru, Nicaragua, Belize, Indonesia, Ukraine, Thailand,  South Africa, Kenya and Uganda.

Sexual and Reproductive Health Comparative Report sent to UNAIDS

February 20, 2008

The international coordinator of the project “Monitoring UNGASS-AIDS Goals on Sexual and Reproductive Heatlh” sent the comparative report to UNAIDS on February 15.

The comparative report was written by Ms. Wilza Villela, project´s research consultant, and Ms. Alessandra Nilo, project international coordinator. Mr. Paul De Lay, UNAIDS´ director of Monitoring & Evaluation, has aknowledged receiving it and thanked for the important work developed throughout the project.

You may download the Comparative Report here.

Sexual and Reproductive Health Comparative Report (PDF)

Civil Society Reports to UNGASS 2008

February 3, 2008

The project of Monitoring the UNGASS-AIDS goals on Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health aims to form and nurture a south-to-south advocacy and research network that, originally, includes sixteen countries: nine in Latin America and the Caribbean, one in Eastern Europe, three in Africa, and three in Southeast Asia.

The project is mostly funded by Ford Foundation, New York, through the office of Education, Sexuality, Religion. It receives complimentary funding from Ford Foundation’s Global HIV Initiative.

Additional support for specific action comes from UNAIDS, Geneva. In kind support, such as logistics infra-structure, is provided by CICT – Center for International Technical Cooperation, – a department of the National AIDS Program of the Ministry of Health of Brazil, and the Brazilian office of UNFPA.

The project is divided in four phases. The first phase is comprised of the 1st UNGASS Forum in the country, facilitated by international coordination team members. The second phase involves data gathering and systematizing. The third is the second UNGASS Forum in the country to prepare for the fourth phase of political advocacy for UNGASS-AIDS 2008.