Asia Catalyst

Development and Communications Intern


3_Cat_BK retreat_Activities_Out_013.jpg

Part time:      16-20 hours/week

Reports to:    Development and Communications Coordinator

Start date:     March 2015

Application Deadline: March 9, 2015

Apply to: info@asiacatalyst.org 

 

Asia Catalyst seeks a part time, unpaid intern for an 8-week placement, starting in March 2015 to work in our midtown-Manhattan office. We seek self-starters with a passion for social justice and rule of law who will be an active part of the organization. Candidates with an interest or background in Asia and human rights, particularly the right to health, are encouraged to apply. 

Supervised by the Development and Communications Coordinator, the intern will learn about institutional and individual fundraising and communications strategy and work to promote Asia Catalyst's advocacy objectives and capacity building programs through the organization's growing development department. The intern will primarily work with senior staff to identify and initiate development strategies to maximize the success of Asia Catalyst's regional program. The regional program will bring together community leaders from marginalized groups in Cambodia, China, Myanmar, and Viet Nam to build skills on human rights analysis, documentation, and advocacy. Program participants will conduct rights-based advocacy on the issue of discrimination against people living with HIV (PLHIV) in healthcare settings.

The intern will also draft and manage substantive content for internal and external use to promote Asia Catalyst's other program and advocacy activities in Asia, via our blog, website, and social media accounts. In addition, the intern will also work together with the Development and Communications coordinator and management to update and augment Asia Catalyst's annual fundraising strategy and timeline based on the organization's objectives, current funding streams, and core values.

Qualifications

  • Excellent written communication skills in English required; Asian Language skills (Chinese, Vietnamese, Burmese, Khmer) helpful
  • Computer skills: Microsoft Word and Excel, Skype, Facebook, Twitter, ability to learn new programs
  • Strong organizational, time management and communication skills with meticulous attention to detail.
  • Ability to work independently as well as function as a member of a team;
  • Ability to work with all programs, all staff, and across time zones;

 

Responsibilities

  • Work with Development and Communications Coordinator to develop and implement a strategy to support Asia Catalyst's regional program and other activities in Asia; manage content submissions from other staff and partners, research and contribute content;
  • Research new funding sources for Asia Catalyst and help track calls for proposals and statements of interest from prospective donors; identify opportunities for pro bono collaboration or contributions in-kind
  • Research and contribute general content to Asia Catalyst's blog on substantive right to health related issues; use social media to promote the work of Asia Catalyst and our community partners;
  • Generate and implement ideas; identify opportunities in communities, the media, and beyond to highlight Asia Catalyst, its programs, and its events;
  • Track relevant news and research reports about health rights in Asia Catalyst's target communities for monthly media analysis mailings; assist with composing monthly media analysis
  • Participate in bi-weekly staff and volunteer meetings;
  • Support the Executive Director and Development and Communications Coordinator in additional tasks as needed.

Asia Catalyst works with community based organizations from marginalized groups in Asia that promote the right to health. We train our partners to meet high standards of effective and democratic governance, to establish a stable foundation for future growth, and to conduct rigorous human rights research and advocacy. We aim to help our partners become leading advocates at the local, national and global levels.

Asia Catalyst does not discriminate based on race, color, ethnicity, national origin, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, marital status, pregnancy, citizenship, age, religion, disability, status, genetic information, military status or any other classification as provided by law.


This position is based in New York, New York, and is unpaid. 

Interested applicants can submit a resume and writing sample to info@asiacatalyst.org by March 9, 2015. No calls please. 



C__Data_Users_DefApps_AppData_INTERNETEXPLORER_Temp_Saved Images_02387dfdf8bb2179a593791f5747c95e05.jpg
In November, my colleagues from the Jiaozhou Health and Counseling Center and I were invited to attend a conference titled "Women and HIV in the Context of Commercial Sex." The China Red Ribbon Forum--a platform for government and civil society organizations to discuss HIV and rights issues--and several UN agencies hosted the conference. There, we met officers from UNAIDS, the United Nations Population Fund, the China AIDS Association, sex worker delegations from New Zealand and Vietnam, and staff from domestic organizations that focus on preventing HIV/AIDS for sex workers.

The first thing I learned from this seminar was the "Chatham House Principle " which ensures that participants of the seminar were able to speak freely under guaranteed confidentiality. Under this relaxed and harmonious atmosphere, all participants, including us sex workers, could fully express themselves. 

Ultimately, there were two things that impressed me the most. First, Ms. Catherine Healy, a coordinator from the New Zealand Sex Worker Association, introduced her association. Through many years' effort, they achieved a Reform Law on Prostitution, which de-criminalized prostitution, recognized sex workers' rights, and strengthened the safety and health of sex workers in New Zealand. More surprisingly, local police help sex workers whose clients refuse to pay their service fees. Secondly, the Director of the Department of Handling Administrative Violations from the Vietnamese Ministry of Justice and the chair of the Viet Nam Network of Sex Workers introduced Viet Nam's newly adopted law from 2013 that closed sex worker detention centers.

When I heard this information, I thought, "is de-criminalization of prostitution in China our dream? Can this dream come true one day?" I thought it was impossible, but I heard domestic experts recommend three things that they wanted to discuss with us:

1) Further study the campaign-style crackdown on sex work and its impact on HIV/AIDS services;
2) Pay attention to the use of condoms as evidence and a tool of prostitution, and its impact on HIV/AIDS prevention;
3) Further study the legitimacy, effectiveness and impact of detention education systems on HIV/AIDS prevention.

Experts and community members responded to the three recommendations, and sex workers had the most right to speak on this topic because this issue is closely related to our interests. 

First, because of the crackdown on sex work in Beijing, we have had to change our working venues frequently and can no longer publicize where we work. But clients need to find us to seek our services. Before the crackdown, staff from health centers would come to our work location and provide us with health information, STD tests, and information on the importance of condom use. We could be selective of our customers, and we could say "No" to guests who were drunk, using drugs, or refusing to use condoms. In order to make a living under the crackdown, however, we have had to give up our bargaining power. Now, as long as clients take less time and give enough money, even if there is a risk for us to get an STD, we have to accept them. It is so difficult to make money in this environment.

Compounding the issue, if we are caught and there is a condom, it becomes evidence that the police use to detain us, or even use to put us in a detention center for one year. How could we dare to use condoms under these conditions? 

One expert mentioned at the seminar "Condoms are a birth control/health product that should not be regarded as a prostitution tool/evidence." I cannot agree more with these words. It is a contradiction that encourages us to use condoms during business on the one hand, but use it as evidence to detain us on the other hand. For our health and safety, we should not have to sacrifice the use of condoms any more. 

In terms of Custody and Education, most of my sex worker sisters are single mothers who have their elders to take care of and their children to raise. After being caught, police will put us into Custody and Education Centers without regard to legal procedure. Our families lose income if we are put in detention. The worse thing is that, when the letters from Custody and Education Centers are sent to our hometowns, our privacy is exposed to the public, and our families have been discriminated against. Because of this, the elderly fall ill because of too much worry, and children quit school without being taken care of. Thus, we hope that the Chinese government can think about our situation more humanely, and consider the fact that the Custody and Education system brings huge hurt to our families and us, both mentally and economically. In order to make a living and pay back debt after being detained, we have to start the sex work again and work even harder than before. Custody and Education is thus meaningless and should be canceled!

I think this conference was a serious and beneficial beginning of a platform upon which sex workers can represent all of our sisters' thoughts, concerns, and grievances. We are not sure whether the three recommendations will get the attention of the Chinese government, but we heard that other countries' laws towards sex workers are changing, and their health and safety are more guaranteed than before. 

We believe that their today (rights protections) is our tomorrow. As long as we keep working on it and fighting for our rights, we believe our dream will come true in China in the near future!

_____________________________________________________________________________
Written by Fan Wenwen, of Jiaozhou Health and Counseling Center

China: Increase protections for Transgender Female Sex Workers

Decriminalize sex work, target HIV interventions.

Screen Shot 2015-01-15 at 11.22.37 AM.png

(Friday January 16, Beijing) Transgender female sex workers are amongst the most marginalized and discriminated populations in China, Asia Catalyst said in a new report published today.  The Chinese government should decriminalize sex work and enact anti-discrimination legislation including gender identity and sexual orientation as protected categories. 

The 72 page report, "My life is too dark to see the light-- A Survey of the Living Conditions of Transgender Female Sex Workers in Beijing and Shanghai" documents the daily reality for transgender female sex workers in Beijing and Shanghai. Based on 10 months' research by Asia Catalyst and two Chinese community based organizations, Beijing Zuoyou Center and Shanghai CSW (commercial sex worker)&MSM (men who have sex with men) Center, the report documents discrimination, police violence, legal restrictions and a policy environment preventing this highly marginalized group's access to public services, legal identity and appropriate health care. They experience amplified stigma due to both their gender identity and their profession.

"Severe prejudice is a major stumbling block for even the most basic tasks," said Zheng Huang, executive director of Shanghai Xinsheng.  "Imagine being laughed at when using a public toilet, being evicted from your home or, even worse, dangerously self-medicating hormone use because no doctor will see you."

As sex work is illegal in China, the police are one of the greatest challenges that transgender sex workers face. Interviewees reported police abuse, especially verbal and physical violence leveled at their transgender identity. Transgender women whose ID cards designate them as male, are detained together with men. The report found that criminalization of sex work is a major obstacle to effective HIV interventions for this population. 

Chinese law allows transgender people to change the gender identity on official documents only on condition of Sex Reassignment Surgery (SRS). For those that do not want SRS, or cannot afford to do so, these requirements leave them with identity documents that do not match their gender identity, resulting in frequent public humiliation, and barriers in accessing basic services.

"Banking, travel, or renting an apartment, can quickly deteriorate into an exercise in public humiliation if the gender on your I.D card does not match your gender identity," said Guo Ziyang, executive director of Beijng Zuoyou Center.  "Making surgery a pre-condition to change the gender on your I.D denies people the right to choose how, when and if to affirm their gender identity through medical procedures. The law should have no place in this very personal decision."

The report noted, by 2020 transgender women and MSM (men who have sex with men) will most likely constitute the majority of all new HIV infections in the Asia-Pacific region. However, the research found that most services for transgender populations in China are only included as part of men who have sex with men (MSM) programming. This is not only at odds with the gender identity of transgender women, but has also served to limit attention and resources to the unique HIV-related needs of transgender people. It has also prevented the development of effective public health interventions for this population.

"Globally, transgender female sex workers are among the populations most heavily affected by, and at risk of, HIV," said Charmain Mohamed, Executive Director of Asia Catalyst. "But transgender specific data collection, HIV programming and outreach is almost non-existent in China."


Read the full report here or by clicking the image above. 

 

For more information and press interviews please contact:

Tingting Shen (English and Chinese)
Director of Advocacy, Research and Policy, Asia Catalyst
86-18311437861                              
tshen@asiacatalyst.org

Guo Ziyang (Chinese)
Beijing Zuoyou Center
86-18611859880
joeguo914@gmail.com

Zhenghuang (Chinese)
Shanghai CSW&MSM Center
86-18616826071
adoniszheng@gmail.com



2_Cat_BK retreat_Activities_In_093.jpg
Asia Catalyst is now accepting applications from CBOs in Cambodia, China, Myanmar, and Viet Nam that wish to develop advocacy strategies and implement community-led activities to address challenges that people living with HIV (PLHIV) and key populations encounter when seeking medical attention. 

The Regional Rights Training Program, conducted in English, is an intensive one-year capacity-building program aimed at building skills in developing community-based advocacy campaigns to respond to discrimination in healthcare settings through a series of hands-on workshops, peer support and individualized coaching. The aim of the program is that each organization will develop knowledge and a set of skills to better analyze the barriers that lead to challenges for PLHIV and key populations to access quality healthcare services; learn how to design a community-based research project; and develop and implement a local or national campaign using their research results. 

For additional program details, view here
For the open application, see: Asia Catalyst Regional Application Form.docx

Applications are due January 24, 2015. 




My name is Liu Min.* I am 48, I live in Shanghai, and I have been a sex worker for the past 15 years. I am a person with a disability, and I only have one arm. Coming from a rural area in China, I don't have other means with which to make a living. I go to the park everyday to find clients, my sex work helps me to support myself.

I am a volunteer of Shanghai Xinsheng, an organization that provides health and HIV prevention services for sex workers in China. In my work with the CBO, I help to distribute condoms to other sisters (female sex workers) that I work with in the park.

C__Data_Users_DefApps_AppData_INTERNETEXPLORER_Temp_Saved Images_02b8c1760e5de9e0d4dca781763297f109.jpg

November 17-18, I was invited to attend a conference titled "Women and HIV in the Context of Commercial Sex" in Beijing, which was organized by the Red Ribbon Forum, a platform for government and civil society organizations to discuss HIV and rights issues, and UN agencies. The conference discussed key issues that sex workers like me face everyday: law enforcement and the negative impact on our health and safety.

The conference invited speakers from the health department to talk about the HIV epidemic among sex workers, and the challenges in conducting HIV interventions among sex workers. What impressed me is that sex workers and sex worker organizations at the conference had the same space to speak as government representatives. The conference also invited international representatives from Vietnam, New Zealand and Switzerland to talk about how these countries handle sex work and related health issues.

Some of the issues mentioned during the conference are important for preventing HIV/AIDS among low-income sisters. For example, China should abolish  using possession of condoms as evidence against sex workers, give sex workers rights, and encourage more people to join HIV/AIDS prevention work. If we can stop using  condoms as evidence to detain sex workers, and abolish the Custody and Education system that authorizes the police to lock up our sisters and clients for up to two years, it will be quite beneficial for us. Both of these were discussed at the conference.

Thumbnail image for C__Data_Users_DefApps_AppData_INTERNETEXPLORER_Temp_Saved Images_0115596a97c613a5f6be2906105b15e016.jpgThe conference discussions were very meaningful for us. When I came back

to Shanghai from the conference, I shared these information with other sisters. They all agree that it would be significant if the conference goals are implemented. Meanwhile, I hope there will be more discussions on the misconducting/unlawful law-enforcement of governmental agencies. I wish the police didn't conduct massive crackdowns on sex work, didn't arrest us as soon as they see us standing on the street. Of course, it will be even better if they recognize our occupation, instead of stigmatizing us.

I learned information about foreign countries from the conference, as well as met sisters from overseas, and I found foreign countries are more open than China. In terms of legislation and sex worker rights, which was mentioned by some international experts during the conference, I think it will be really difficult to achieve in China. There was a representative from the Vietnam Department of Justice, but no representatives from the Chinese public security or Department of Justice attended. Thus, I think it will be difficult to achieve our goals.

I am very glad that there were several sisters in this conference, and we have the opportunity to stand up and speak out on the mistreatment that we experience at work. I feel very proud that I made several comments, though I have no idea how much impact my words will bring. Also I met some good friends (sister) through the conference, and I hope there would be more occasions like this, and that more sisters can join and make their voices heard.

 *Name has been changed to protect the author's identity 

By Charmain Mohamed

Charmain Mohamed is Executive Director of Asia Catalyst.


Over the last eight years Asia Catalyst has grown in size and stature to become a leader in curriculum development and advocacy that furthers the right to health for marginalized groups in Asia. The transition has been a remarkable one, not least because it happened within the context of a global recession and a steady decline and re-focus of international HIV funding. Our measure of success however, is not a financial one, nor even one of organizational sustainability, but rather one of impact. Impact for the communities we work with, and impact on addressing some of the worst effects of punitive laws and regulations on HIV, and access to an adequate standard of health for all.

Eight years ago the global number of people dying because of AIDS was at its highest ever. That number has fallen by 35% in the last eight years, mainly because of an increase in access to treatment for people living with HIV. At this year's AIDS 2014 conference in Melbourne, Australia, UNAIDS Executive Director, Michel Sidibe, remarked that, if similar progress continued and accelerated, we were "on track to end the epidemic by 2030." However, with two thirds of people living with HIV still not accessing treatment, lack of vigilance now could see current progress eroded and targets being set back by a decade, if not more. Last year UNAIDS reported an estimated 2.1 million new infections and 1.5 million AIDS related deaths globally. Clearly there is more to be done.

logo白-方正隶书-平等多元开放.jpeg

In 2003, Trim was volunteering as a moderator of online groups that discuss lesbian and domestic violence issues in China. While sorting through QQ--a popular Chinese messaging service-- she found an influx of posts from "lesbians wanting to kill themselves" due to the stigma and discrimination they experienced. Realizing that China needed an organization that focused on issues faced by the lesbian community, she met Xian, a lesbian activist with the goal of establishing such an organization, and Trim joined the founding team.

Established in 2005, Common Language is now China's leading lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (LBT) rights organization. Through community mobilization, public education, and law and policy advocacy, Common Language focuses on Chinese communities suffering from oppression based on sexual orientation and gender identity and endeavors to educate the general public on sexual diversity issues.

 "Common Language is about having the strength to solve issues on a larger level," says Trim. "If you can change society's perception of the issues, then you can generate systemic change." Among the systemic change already generated is increased lesbian activism in China; for example, the total number of lesbian organizations in the Chinese Lala Alliance, a network of lesbian community-based organizations, has grown from zero at the time of Common Language's inception to over 30 today.

After participating in a one-day workshop with Asia Catalyst in May 2013, Common Language realized the benefits of a strong strategic plan and capacity building, and joined Asia Catalyst's one-year capacity building program. After each workshop in the series, Trim facilitated internal meetings for Common Language to disseminate lessons learned, and now several of her team members have increased project management and advocacy skills. One of the motivating factors for joining the program was to learn the skills to pass on to other lesbian organizations and, today, Common Language is applying these skills and delivering community trainings of its own.  

CCW2, 5 minutes pitching exercise.JPG

In August 2014, Common Language conducted a Youth Action Camp. The Youth Action Camp was developed through experience with Asia Catalyst training, and Common Language's history of holding "Lala Camps" in collaboration with the Lala Alliance, which brought together LBT organizations and individuals from across the country for networking, information sharing, and training. Lala Camps were normally a large and expansive affair, but this year's Youth Action Camp was re-structured as a smaller seven-day workshop training series for LBT CBOs using AC training methods.  14 people from 4 cities in China attended, with organizers from mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan as facilitators and trainers.

Using Asia Catalyst's curriculum and training methods,  Common Language staff facilitated the week long workshop, with an Asia Catalyst staff member also assisting with several trainings on-site and serving as a mentor for some of the Common Language facilitators. By the end of the week, Common Language cleanly transitioned from student organization in Asia Catalyst's programs, to independent innovator and implementer of Asia Catalyst's community-centered curriculum.

As with many of Asia Catalyst's programs, none of the Youth Action Camp participants had previously done strategic planning as an organization; most did not have government contacts and very few had media and foundation contacts. After the 7-day training, 86% of participants reported being able to make strategic plans, 93% learned the three aspects of organizational vision, and 100% reported that they would be able to use the new skills learned during the training in their work. As one participant put it, "I have never been a meeting facilitator before but I am sure I know how to be one with all the skills I've learned."

This bodes well for the future of China's LBT community. As a representative from Common Language puts it, Asia Catalyst's contribution of strategic planning to the Youth Action Camp agenda "really took these organizations from community support groups to bona fide CBOs. Now they are devising projects with their strategic plans in mind, and working towards a clear vision."

Based on feedback from participants, Common Language now aims to develop a version of Asia Catalyst's curriculum Know It with case studies and examples specific to the LBQ community. In the grand scheme of things, the organization wants to generate a ripple effect alongside Asia Catalyst, with participant LBT organizations providing support and capacity building to younger and less experienced groups in the region. Following the Youth Leadership Camp, this ripple is beginning, with some participants loosely mentoring organizations in Lanzhou and Hohot. In the meantime, Common Language continues to strengthen its own skills in capacity building training, to provide more in-depth training and skills to the "ripple" organizations, and help them to pass their skills on even further.

Most Significant Changes
By Eli Binder 

Eli Binder was an intern with Asia Catalyst for the summer of 2014. He is now in his second year of the College Program at Bard High School Early College.

Asia Catalyst brings together representatives from Chinese community-based organizations (CBOs) in its year-long peer-driven capacity building program. These CBOs represent marginalized groups who experience unique challenges in obtaining the highest attainable standard of health, including people living with HIV/AIDS (PLHIV), LGBT groups, people who use drugs (PWUD) and sex workers. Over the course of a year, the representatives of these CBOs learn how to effectively run an organization and conduct rights-based advocacy. In July, an external evaluator collected testimonials from alumni organizations about the most significant changes that were sparked by Asia Catalyst's training. 

As an intern this summer, I had the privilege of translating many of these Most Significant Change stories from Chinese to English. Each document tells the tale of the changing status of these marginalized groups - and their organization's role in catalyzing these changes. They all thank Asia Catalyst's training for the knowledge and sense of empowerment and autonomy that made their changes possible.

The marginalized groups that Asia Catalyst works with in China face social stigma and institutional discrimination. For PLHIV, these issues manifest themselves in things like discriminatory hiring practices and the denial of medical services. LGBT groups face extreme stigma - in fact, homosexuality was classified as a mental disorder by the Ministry of Health until 2001. Sex workers and PWUD are also socially ostracized, and in addition, sex workers face up to two years of detention and forced labor under the extrajudicial "Custody and Education" system while PWUD face similar treatment in compulsory detoxification centers.

These issues faced by Asia Catalyst's partners are undoubtedly daunting. Reading the Most Significant Change stories by the organizations that have tasked themselves with combating rights violations, however, left me with an optimistic outlook on the future of these marginalized groups in China.

Most of the Most Significant Change stories begin in a similar manner: an individual or group of people witnessed or suffered a health-related injustice or human rights violation, and decided to do something about it. Each activist formed an organization tasked with righting the wrong they experienced - but most of them did not have a formal education in organizational management. A climate of mistrust of activists and stigma surrounding marginalized groups has left Chinese society with little framework for aiding activist with big ambitions and good intentions but without managerial experience.

Because of this, most of the alumni of Asia Catalyst's training began without the knowledge and capacity to run sustainable organizations. For example, one of Asia Catalyst's partner organizations was founded by four female sex workers who wanted to provide HIV prevention and medical services to other sex workers in their community. Lanlan, one of the founders, recalls that upon foundation, her and her colleagues' "understanding of what an NGO was was not very clear," and because of this, they were not able to make the difference in their community that they wanted to. 

Participating in Asia Catalyst's capacity building program seemed to change that. The CBOs cite a vast array of skills they took away from the training as having contributed to their most significant changes. 88% identify increased strategic planning capacity as key to their most significant change; 53% note an increase in their advocacy capacity as crucial; 29% identify an increased fundraising capacity as critical; and 24% cite an increased training and coaching capacity as important - the list goes on and on.

For Xishuangbanna Buddhist House, a CBO located in the scenic hills of Yunnan, the most significant change came from learning about risk management. Yan Han'en, a member of the organization wrote, "before I participated in Asia Catalyst's non-profit leadership training, I didn't know what risk management was... afterwards I did." Before working with Asia Catalyst, Yan's organization was always either without funding or stonewalled by the local authorities. With a risk management plan, however, they learned to cooperate with the local government and secure funding for projects. Recently, they gained state approval for their newest program, the Dazhou Village Dai People's Legal Literacy Project. With the help of Asia Catalyst, Xishuangbanna Buddhist House continues to carry out its mission of "filling the gaps in services that the government doesn't provide or provides poorly."

There is no clear trend concerning the social and legal status of these marginalized groups in China. On the one hand, there seems to be regression - Chinese prisons continue to build segregated wings for HIV positive prisoners, officials prevented prominent sex-worker activist Ye Haiyan from attending the AIDS 2014 conference, and recently, China's Spring Airlines has been preventing PLHIV from boarding flights. However, progress continues to occur on a large scale in society as well. In May of this year, a petition to abolish the "Custody and Education" system that accumulated 108 signatures, some from prominent lawyers and former politicians, was sent to the National People's Congress Standing Committee. And this July, a Chinese court heard a landmark lawsuit against a "gay conversion therapy" clinic, as well as Baidu, the Chinese equivalent of Google, for advertising the clinic. 

The stories of Asia Catalyst's partner CBOs show concrete changes on the community level. After advocacy and strategic planning training, one organization ran projects that resulted in solutions for some of the fundamental problems of PLHIV in their community. Another partner has established volunteer teams of LGBT parents and friends in twenty cities across China, creating a support network that was previously non-existent. And in Hebei and Henan, two partner CBOs have procured special government funding to support PLHIV. With the success of Asia Catalyst's partner organizations in mind, it's very hard to look at the futures of these marginalized Chinese groups with anything but optimism. 

Reflections from AIDS 2014

| No Comments

DSC00384.JPGZheng Huang (Tony) is the Founder and Secretary General of the Shanghai CSW (commercial sex worker)  & MSM (men who have sex with men)  Center (SCMC), which works with the sex worker and the LGBT communities. He has published several articles focusing on issues related to HIV, the LGBT community, and sex worker rights. He lives in Shanghai, China.  

Reflections from AIDS 2014
By Zheng Huang

The 20th International AIDS Conference, "AIDS 2014", was held in Melbourne from July 20th to 25th. 

The theme of the Melbourne Declaration, which was drafted by the organizers of the AIDS 2014 conference, was "Nobody left behind." The Declaration affirms that non-discrimination is fundamental to HIV response, and asks governments around the world to guarantee the equal rights of people at risk for HIV. 

With the support of Asia Catalyst, I attended the conference alongside Ziyang Guo from Beijing Zuoyou Information Center and Tingting Shen, the Advocacy and Research Director from Asia Catalyst. As the organization I represent, SCMC, focuses on health rights issues for sex workers and LGBT people, I attended the sex worker and LGBT related sessions at AIDS 2014. 

Attending this conference has been very meaningful and insightful for me in my intervention work among sex workers and the LGBT community in China. Here are a few of my biggest take-aways: 

Current Landscape: 

1. The MH17 Disaster 
The International AIDS Conference is an influential meeting place for people who work in this field, but the general public is not always familiar with it. AIDS 2014, 
DSC00810.JPG
however, attracted significant attention due to the tragic events surrounding MH17, the Malaysian airliner that was lost over Ukraine. While the world's news paid attention to the incident, they also began to pay attention to AIDS 2014, because the conference was affected by the many colleagues who we all lost.  Those lost included friends and colleagues from international foundations, the World Health Organization, and the International AIDS Committee. In every AIDS 2014 meeting, including the opening, closing, and some smaller meetings, we had moments of silence for those lost.

2. The Response to the World Wide AIDS Epidemic has been Delayed 
The newest UN report shows that "Now we have the hope to end AIDS, more than ever; but if we just do what we are doing right/but if we don't increase our effort, we cannot end AIDS."  On the other hand, some related reports show that to end the AIDS epidemic before 2030 means the spread of the HIV virus must be under control or restrained. Earlier in June 2011, at the UN General Assembly Special Session meeting in New York, Ban Ki-moon said "Since 2011, new HIV cases have decreased 20%". He said our goal is to end AIDS before 2010. I see that the timeline has been pushed back for ten years, which indicates the severe challenges of worldwide prevention and a cure for HIV.

3. Lack of Voice from Chinese Grassroots 
The conference was held in Melbourne, an expensive destination. For most grassroots or community-based groups, there are a few ways to attend: 
First, is by procuring a scholarship from the conference itself. However, few grassroots NGOs received a scholarship. I believe the major reason is that China is not an English speaking country, and it was relatively difficult for grassroots groups to submit application forms in English, as was required. 

DSC00848.JPG
Secondly, grassroots groups may receive support from foundations. In the past, many foundations supported Chinese grassroots groups. However, shifting ideas about China's wealth have caused many to believe that Chinese grassroots can support themselves financially. This is untrue. Most organizations which receive government support are health departments, scholarships, and government organs. The opportunities for Chinese grassroots are essentially zero. 

Compounding these problems, this year the Chinese grassroots activist, Ms. Haiyan Ye, was prevented from attending the conference due to restrictions of her personal freedom. With the help of the China Sex Worker Network, Asia Catalyst and Network of Sex Workers in Australia, Haiyan had planned to participate in AIDS 2014. Unfortunately, the Chinese government did not allow this, and instead seized her passport. 

4. Female Sex Workers, Women, and Transgender People are Marginalized: 
DSC00709.JPG
"Politics are anywhere where there are people." I experienced this reality at AIDS 2014 time and time again. 

For example, during some meetings, transgender representatives said that they feel they should be independent from the LGBT group. Ultimately, Transgender (TG) does not have an independent status among AIDS prevention programs, which violates their basic rights. Instead, in AIDS prevention programs from UNAIDS or the WHO, TG is regarded as a part of Men who have Sex with Men (MSM) AIDS prevention or gay prevention programs. 
In a similar fashion, females who live with HIV/AIDS from England brought up that, while the UN paid attention to gender issues by establishing the UNWOMEN, there is not much female related support in the budget of programs for AIDS prevention and treatment. 

It was clear that these issues contributed to a structural marginalization of groups such as transgender people and women. 

Changing Landscapes: 

1. T&T, TasP, PrEP 
A lot of discussion during the conference focused on using treatment as prevention. 
There are currently two major ways to prevent HIV by taking medicine.
DSC00786.JPGThe first is the use of anti-virus medicine before intercourse, so that medicine levels increase to a certain amount to kill the HIV virus; 
the second is a daily medicine level that maintains the medicine level in a safe amount. 
In addition to these methods, condom use is highly promoted. Although these methods are promoted by international NGOS such as The Global Forum on MSM and HIV, and bodies like the WHO, some people believe that they are little more than fraudulent. In that light, debate remains heavy on whether or not these "breakthrough" prevention methods are beneficial or malevolent. 

2. Discussion of new cooperation between sex workers and the police: 
A training supported by the Open Society Foundation (OSF) in Viet Nam, Thailand, Kenya, and Ghana, invited local sex workers, related NGO workers, and police officers to discuss how sex workers can better cooperate with the police. After the launch of this program, relationships between sex workers and police greatly changed. 

Whereas before the program sex workers were afraid of the police, after the program sex workers feel comfortable contacting the police when they are in trouble or need help. Leaders of local sex worker groups spend time building up good relationships with the police, and if new officers come, the police invites them to attend OSF trainings. 

Remarkably, due to the enhanced sex worker-police relationship, clients of sex workers stopped treating sex workers with violence. At the same time, condom use among sex workers has increased. 

While sex work is still illegal in these countries, the trainings and their outcomes will help decrease the crime threat, and spotlighted the importance of condom use to the police and the dangers of using condoms as evidence of prostitution and grounds for arrest. 

3. Laws and the Human Rights of Sex Workers: 
AIDS 2014 provided me the opportunity to understand major legal frameworks for sex workers around the world and their implications. Legal frameworks such as those in Australia (state-led), New Zealand (legalization of sex work), and Sweden (sex work is legal but the purchasing of sexual service is criminalized) contributed to a wider understanding of what legal advocacy goals should be organized around in China.  
DSC00809.JPG

Most of the countries in Southeast Asia, including China, criminalize sex work. However, there is no data that shows that the criminalization of sex work is helpful for HIV responses. On the contrary, there is a plethora of data, such as the reports released by Lancet during AIDS 2014, that decriminalization will be the best measure to prevent the spread of HIV among the key affected populations. 

Attending AIDS 2014 was a very rewarding experience for me. I had the chance to learn the most recent development in this field, and interacted with activists from all over the globe. The information I learnt and connections I built in Melbourne will help to strengthen my work in China. 

This week at the International Aids Conference (IAC), Asia Catalyst presents preliminary findings from a joint research project on transgender sex workers conducted with two Chinese organizations, Beijing Zuoyou Information Center and Shanghai CSW & MSM Center.

Shanghai CSW (commercial sex worker) & MSM (men who have sex with men) Center (SCMC) was established in 2004 to focus on the rights and wellbeing of vulnerable sexual minorities in China. SCMC works to improve sexual minorities' access to medical and legal services, and to improve the environment surrounding these vulnerable groups. As the secretariat of a sex workers network platform, SCMC also works in coalition with academic institutions, mass media, and other groups to improve public understanding of the discrimination faced by sex workers.

Respectively, the founding of the Beijing Zuoyou Information Center was prompted in 2004 by the rising threat of HIV/AIDS in China. The original goal of Beijing Zuoyou was to promote gay culture and advertise a healthy attitude towards sex. The center's founders began by organizing events for gay men in Beijing, speaking publically about HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, and promoting safe sex. Through the activities held at the center, Beijing Zuoyou became a uniquely safe, open space for a demographic that is often ostracized in Chinese society.

In 2007, Beijing Zuoyou began to provide services to transgender sex workers through outreach efforts. The organization aimed to improve professional safety by teaching violence avoidance; protecting legal rights; and decreasing risky behavior by offering HIV and syphilis testing, medical referral, and case management.

With these unique skills and backgrounds, Shanghai CSW & MSM Center and Beijing Zuoyou Information Center partnered with Asia Catalyst in late 2013 for a research, documentation and advocacy project. Although both groups initially planned to work with Asia Catalyst on separate advocacy projects, after discussion it became evident that a joint research project would be beneficial to both organizations, strengthen the content of the work and focus the advocacy strategy. . The topic selected was the situation of transgender sex workers in China.

For both groups, this research is an important tool in furthering their goal to end discrimination against transgender sex workers. They hope to better understand how discrimination affects transgender people by examining the experiences of individuals. As little is known about transgender sex workers, the research will help to identify community needs, what the best ways to provide intervention services are, and raise the profile of the kind of stigma the community faces. As SCMC explained,  "We normally are not able to adequately understand these problems. Through this kind of research, we can make different classes of people see their problems."

In the first half of 2014, Asia Catalyst conducted three workshops with key members of both organizations to solidify research and documentation skills. Proper training and preparation for this research was vital because, as SCMC puts it, "many transgender people's main work is sex work, they are nervous that, after participating in an interview, their identity will be exposed." The research methodology developed with Asia Catalyst is sensitive to these concerns, and does not divulge real names or video tape the interviews.

Beijing Zuoyou explained the importance of this research project: "In addition to sex work being illegal, which results in police harassment, [transgender sex workers] also face prejudice from the rest of the sexual minority community for both being transgender and being sex workers. These factors put them at greater risk for physical violence as well as sexually transmitted diseases. Our initial goals were to raise the visibility of this community, promote greater understanding thereby reduce the risks [sic]."As SCMC adds, "stopping all discrimination against all sex workers is very important."

During this year's IAC in Melbourne, Asia Catalyst, SCMC and Beijing Zuoyou will distribute preliminary findings of the joint research project to peer groups, policy makers, AIDS experts and other stakeholders at this international event. The full report will be released at the end of 2014. In the meantime, SCMC and Beijing Zuoyou remain optimistic that the AIDS community can reach a common understanding about how transgender people are discriminated against and the negative effects discrimination has on their right to health. Beijing Zuoyou hopes that this report will "create an environment where male and transgender sex workers will be free from discrimination and violence...and enjoy the rights of other citizens."