Supporting community-inclusive responses to HIV in the Pacific

Jul 25, 2017

Participants take part in group work during the recent Pacific Sexual Diversity Network annual meeting held in Fiji (Photo: Suli Waqa)

By Ian Mungall

Evidence has shown that HIV responses that are inclusive of community groups produce positive health outcomes, build community sustainability, are cost effective, and ensure human rights-based approaches that reach vulnerable populations.

UNDP, through the Multi-Country Western Pacific Programme, is supporting civil society organizations working on HIV throughout the region as part of its efforts to improve prevention, treatment and care interventions. 

On 26-30 June 2017, the Pacific Sexual and Gender Diversity Network (PSGDN), held a workshop to strengthen the community response to HIV in the Pacific, bringing together over 35 representatives of community groups from 13 Pacific Island Countries working on issues related to the human rights, health and inclusion of people of diverse sexual orientation and gender identity. 

PSGDN is a core regional community partner in the HIV response. The network is currently in the process of undergoing a reform process to improve its governance and effectiveness in responding to the needs of the community. A core component of this is ensuring that the network’s members, who represent key populations at risk for HIV, are meaningfully engaged in the network’s national and regional governance mechanisms going forward. 

“Including civil society, particularly people living with HIV and other key populations, is crucial to designing and implementing effective HIV interventions,” said Maisoon Elbukhari Ibrahim, Programme Manager, UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji. “In order to be inclusive, we must proactively ensure that all marginalized populations are actively encouraged and supported.”

For the first time, the network introduced a five to seven-year Theory of Change plan to guide work for the period of 2018-2024. Participants agreed that the vision of the network was going to be reformulated as, “Pacific Islanders of Diverse Sexual Orientations and Gender Identities/Expressions and Sex Characteristics (PIDSOGIESC) live healthy and happy lives in fully inclusive Pacific societies which uphold and respect the freedoms and rights of all citizens in the Pacific.” An updated set of main priorities were also identified: climate justice and resilience; law reforms to reduce stigma and discrimination; and health and well-being. 

The workshop provided an important opportunity to update the network’s members on progress and review results of the mid-term review of its Strategic Plan 2014-2019, which was recently completed.

“The mid-term review of our Strategic Plan and the reform of the organization are in sync and essential for a community network such as PSGDN at this point in time, given the shrinking civil society spaces and shifting priorities at all levels,” said Isikeli Vulavou, Executive Director of PSGDN. “Our work is now more streamlined, focused and aligned to the priorities of our communities and that of the Pacific region, with climate justice and resilience building now also one of our priority areas in addition to promoting LGBTI rights and equality and health and well-being. More importantly, all members are now more committed than ever to deliver on these goals in the next five to seven years.” 

Sessions throughout the week enabled participants to share best practices, knowledge and experiences and strategize on resource mobilization and partnership building opportunities. 

In addition, participants collaborated on developing a monitoring and evaluation plan to better manage the process of assessing and reporting progress towards achieving the network’s outputs and outcomes.

“This meeting was an eye-opener for me. I learnt so many things in this one week and deeply appreciate the opportunity to represent my country in this space and contribute to the important discussions around the future of PSGDN regarding its goals and strategy, as well as the monitoring and evaluation framework that the organization will use as a guide to measure its progress going forward,” said Mr Pafini Fepuali, Tuvalu Pina Association.

To wrap-up the week-long event, on 29-30 June 2017 PSGDN held its annual board meeting where members officially endorsed the name change of the network from the Pacific Sexual Diversity Network to the Pacific Sexual and Gender Diversity Network, endorsed the report of the mid-term review, approved the new priority areas of the Theory of Change, and signed off on the network’s work plan for the coming year. 

*Ian Mungall is a Programme Analyst for HIV, Health and Development based in the UNDP Bangkok Regional Hub

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