Welcome to the 19th newsletter of Bridging the Gaps - Health and rights for key populations. 
As an alliance of nine organisations and networks we work towards the end of the AIDS epidemic among key populations together with more than 80 grassroots organisations. To get there we envision a society where sex workers, people who use drugs and LGBT people have their human rights fully respected.


Quantifying evidence for harm reduction in Pakistan

Mainline’s partner Nai Zindagi in Pakistan has collected confidential data from over 40,000 clients involving 9,359,158 occasions of service during the past seven years. The nature and size of the database, which includes syringe and condom distribution, medical services including wound care, referrals, HIV testing and ART initiation, as well as adherence to treatment for HIV positive clients, is unseen anywhere else in the harm reduction field. Together with the Kirby Institute of UNSW Australia, they have set the ambition to establish a serious research agenda based on this data.

Positive results of Ukrainian key populations platform

Four key populations in Ukraine – LGBT people, people who use drugs, sex workers and ex-prisoners – united in one National Country Key Populations Platform (CKPP) three years ago. CKPP was officially registered in December 2017. Currently the work of the platform is financially supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands through Bridging the Gaps, UNAIDS, Eurasian Harm Reduction Association (EHRA)International Renaissance Foundation, and the Embassy of the Netherlands in Ukraine. This diverse funding model allows the Platform to remain neutral and independent. As a result, the government is more inclined to listen to the key populations, as they gained legitimacy by joining forces. More information on results of the platform can be found here.

New resources from NSWP

NSWP published three new resources and community guides, with the support of funding from Bridging the Gaps. A Briefing Paper on Sex Workers’ Experiences of Stock-outs of HIV/STI Commodities and Treatments was developed in collaboration with ITPC, the Homophobia and Transphobia Experienced by LGBT Sex Workers was developed with MPact, and the Impact of Stigma and Discrimination on Key Populations and Their Families, was developed with MPact and INPUD. The papers have been published on NSWP’s website in all five NSWP languages (Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish), and draw on the expertise and experiences of their members. A further paper on The Impact of Anti-trafficking Legislation and Initiatives on Sex Workers was recently published, and will be available soon in translation.

New sex work policy in effect in Vietnam

On 1st January a new sex work policy came into effect in Vietnam, which makes domestic funding available for community-led services in fifteen provinces across the country.This new policy is an encouraging result of the deliberate and persistent efforts of sex worker CBOs in Vietnam, the Centre for Supporting Community Development Initiatives (SCDI), the Vietnam Network for Sex Workers (VNSW) in close collaboration with the Partnership to Inspire, Transform and Connect the HIV response (PITCH), and Bridging the Gaps. The government has recognised the expertise of sex worker CBOs and the need for HIV response services and, for the first time, will financially support the outreach work of sex woker-led organisations according to their proposed budget model. The new policy allows local governments to choose from three pilot models to be tested and funded. The progress to meaningful execution will be long, but a first important step is now made official.

HIV activists announce alternative 2020 conference in Mexico City

An alliance of key population-led networks, networks of people living with HIV, treatment activists, and supporters has formed to organise an international community-led conference titled HIV2020: Community Reclaiming the Global Response. The event is scheduled to take place in Mexico City, July 6-8 2020, and will run concurrently with the 2020 International AIDS Conference taking place in the United States. The HIV2020 Alliance has decided to organise the community-led event to provide a safe alternative for individuals who cannot or will not attend AIDS2020 due to discriminatory US immigration and travel policies directed to people from Muslim, African, Caribbean and Latin American countries, people who use drugs, sex workers, and transgender people.

New track record cases available

Four new track record cases are available via our website. These cases illustrate what changes have been put in motion through participation in Bridging the Gaps, the challenges that are met along the way, and recommendations for the near future. Partner NGLHRC successfully challenged the constitutionality of forced anal examinations in Kenya. Partner HOYMAS explains how partnerships and advocacy led to successful unified sex worker community actions. And partner Sexual Rights Centre (SRC) showcases a sex worker-led success for human rights and health. And, last but not least, partner Aye Myanmar Association (AMA) explains how they developed into a resilient sex worker-led organisation, which has improved access to HIV services for sex workers. You can find them all here under 'results reports’.

Saying our goodbyes in Nepal

After twelve special years, alliance partner Mainline is saying their goodbyes to their loyal partner Youth Vision in Nepal. Youth Vision and Mainline worked together to promote the health and rights of people who use drugs in several programmes before Bridging the Gaps. Youth Vision, Mainline and Bridging the Gaps are currently working together to produce a short documentary on the change that this collaboration has set in motion in Nepal with regards to harm reduction and the HIV response.

'Invisible women' were seen in Kyrgyzstan

A photo exhibition was held in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan at the end of last year. The exhibition allowed women suffering from violence or discrimination, living with HIV or using drugs, as well as LBT women, to send a message to society: ’We are here! We also love and are loved. We deserve to be happy and have equal rights.’ The exhibition was initiated by Asteria Foundation with support from UNAIDS, and the photo models are participating in Bridging the Gaps. According to the data, all women from vulnerable populations with families or intimate partners are exposed to different forms of violence. Eighty per cent of such women do not seek any help, as they are afraid to face stigma and discrimination.

Fourth Sex Worker Academy Africa

The Sex Worker Academy Africa (SWAA) held its fourth session, with seventeen activists from Eswatini, Kenya and Mali in November last year. SWAA is a ground-breaking learning community programme, led by and for sex workers. The academy includes workshops, site visits and advocacy sessions designed to support sex workers and develop organising skills. The academy is based on the Sex Worker Implementation Tool (SWIT), which offers practical guidance on effective HIV and STI programming for sex workers. The SWIT also highlights evidence on the need to decriminalise sex work, and to involve sex workers in developing HIV and SRHR programmes. Following the Academy, sex workers from Eswatini and Mali will develop a national plan of activities to further build the capacity of sex workers on the SWIT and implement it in their country. More information about the SWAA is available in this NSWP case study.

Mystery client training

Aidsfonds is piloting the use of mystery clients to monitor and evaluate health facilities serving sex workers in Nairobi, Kenya. Information from mystery clients is fed back to health clinics so that they can improve their service provision. Different aspects of health clinics will be monitored, such as the physical environment, friendliness of staff, absence of stigma and discrimination, and the quality of medical and sexual and reproductive health counselling. Together with International Treatment Preparedness Coalition (ITPC), sex worker-led partner organisations and service providers, guidelines and tools are developed. Potentially, a bigger roll-out of the training will be organised nationally and internationally in May 2019.

MPact's executive director appointed to Global Fund board

MPact’s executive director, Dr George Ayala, was recently announced as a new member of the Developed Country NGO Delegation to the board of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. The Global Fund is the largest multilateral funder of the global response to HIV, TB and malaria. The Developed Country NGO Delegation has the mission to bring the voices and needs of civil society to the Global Fund. They work to ensure that the Global Fund remains ambitious, transparent, accountable and achieves maximum impact. Together, they strive to ensure full funding for the fight against HIV, TB and malaria and to assure that people most affected by the epidemics are reached and can enjoy healthy lives in which their human rights are guaranteed.

From research to action: how to improve collaborative partnerships?

This peer review article reflects on how partners collaborated in our complex alliance of over 100 different NGOs, using a multiple-method approach of participant observation, qualitative interviews, and a survey to explore the benefits, facilitators and challenges of collaboration. The toolkit for effective collaboration in partnerships for health and human rights helps to translate this research into action, with a set of tools to help team managers and team members to establish or strengthen collaboration in partnerships. It was developed by the University of Amsterdam together with Aidsfonds, Alliance partners, and tested and adapted during a pilot in Kenya in November 2017 and in Kyrgyzstan in March 2018.
In strategic partnership with and funded by: