Thematic segment on HIV in emergency contexts
Session on Enabling Environments for Key Populations
Delivered by Asia-Pacific NGO Delegate Jeffry Acaba
The NGO Delegation truly appreciates the UNAIDS Secretariat for allotting a session on how emergencies impact the situation of key populations. For someone who lives in a country where storms and typhoons make regular visits every month, I can very much relate to how important it is for the HIV response to remain a priority in emergency contexts.
When Typhoon Haiyan, a category five storm, entered the Philippines on the night of November 8, 2013, my family could not feel more worried, as we knew that the storm was hitting directly my province in Western Samar, where most of my entire kin from both parents live. True enough, the following morning, my province was left with more than 10,000 dead and 700,000 displaced. Some of my family members and friends who live in the province were transferred to makeshift tents without access to safe water and food.
Throughout the recovery process, our civil society partners in Samar and Leyte, two hardest hit provinces, received reports of heightened vulnerabilities of young men who have sex with men and transgender women. They were exposed to sexual assaults more than, not, as much as those experienced by young Waray women and girls. The devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan exposed key populations to further human rights violations and sexual health issues. This shows us how complex emergency contexts are, and how the disruption of structures has complicated the situation of key populations particularly in poorest areas, including my province of Samar.
Meanwhile, the ongoing incident of Rohingya refugees stranded in the Andaman Sea and the refusal of many countries in Southeast Asia to open its doors to this community sets another definition of communities in the state of emergency. But more than providing HIV services, I would also like to highlight the need to address the political environment that pushes key populations and vulnerable communities to the state of emergency and exacerbates the vulnerabilities to HIV and other sexual and reproductive health and rights issues. I echo the intervention of our colleague from the Interagency Coalition on AIDS and Development on broadening the definition of emergency, to include key population emergencies as well. If our needs as key populations, especially us young key populations, in “stable states” are being left behind, in the context of emergency, we do not want to be forgotten.