Prospective new Alliance partners from Malaysia and Vietnam attended the annual “Blue Sky Week”, joining Alliance linking organisations from Cambodia, Indonesia, Ukraine, China, India, Myanmar, Mongolia, Kyrgyz Republic,and the Philippines, as well as colleagues and partners from Alliance India and the UK Secretariat.
Attendees emphasised the need for the Alliance to retain its core strength in community mobilisation. The focus was on building a shared understanding of the issues faced in the region, particularly the challenges of working in a regional context where epidemics are largely driven by key populations who are hidden or hard to reach due to high levels of stigma and discrimination.
Several external speakers were invited to contribute to sessions. This included Cameron Wolf, Regional HIV/AIDS technical advisor for USAID, who presented on the US government’s HIV/AIDS Programming in the Greater Mekong Region and Brad Otto from the Burnet Institute, who spoke about health policy initiatives working with men who have sex with men in the Mekong/China region.
Another session focused on the development of Alliance Regional Technical Support Hubs and the future role of the Alliance as a technical support provider in the region. Contributors included Dr Min Thwe, director of the IPPF-led UNAIDS Technical Support Facility for East and South East Asia and Mark Bebbington, Program Director of the HIV Consortium for Partnerships in Asia and the Pacific. The need to work in partnership with existing technical support providers and other consortia was stressed.
A highlight of the week were the field visits to implementation sites of HIV/AIDS initiatives in Bangkok. These included ‘Ozone’, a PSI funded drop-in centre for people who inject drugs and the Mercy Centre, an NGO focusing on mothers and children.
On Tuesday evening, delegates attended a reception, hosted by Alliance Trustee Kevin Ryan, Director of Positive Lives, who commented: ‘This meeting gave me a real sense of the underlying values of the Alliance, its strong diversified community base and the need for ongoing engagement by members of the Alliance Board of Trustees at a community level wherever possible and appropriate.’