Presenting author: Myo Thet Oo
Presenting author biography:
A Technical Advisor to the Strength of Survival, a peer-led, local PLHIV group, with more than 8 years of experience in providing the strategic direction on program development, partnership, resource mobilization and advocacy. Lead in the design, delivery and management of community-led outreach HIV initiatives on impactful community-centered approach.
Myanmar: Community-led harm reduction in sex works during the time of Coup & COVID-19
Myo Thet Oo, Zarni Htun, Mg Mg Ye Min Thein, Sandar Aye
Post-coup context of Myanmar largely impacted to the health care services in both public and private sector with disrupted service facilities, high travel restrictions and security threats which lead difficulties for FSWs in accessing quality HIV/SRHR healthcare services. With the very limited resources setting and the civil disobedience movement by public healthcare facilities as well as operational constraints, harm reduction services has been force-stopped.
Médecins du Monde envisioned harm reduction as a 'combination intervention', made up of a package of interventions tailored to the local setting and need, which give primary emphasis to reducing the harms of sex work. Given the context, MdM in Myanmar rolled out the community-led harm reduction program for female sex workers in 13 townships of Yangon. A group of peer sex workers has been trained for harm reduction, case management and community-based testing during coup setting. MdM delivered the comprehensive harm reduction package and COVID-19 preventive kits including ARV treatment. This approach has been integrated with the community mobilization and strengthening the linkages for referral services.
Effective approach to sex worker-centered harm reduction include:
1. Be informed of the local sex workers community and put them in the heart of the programming
2. Prioritize locally relevant harm reduction activities and creating allies for the better comprehensive services.
3. Encouraging a Peer-led outreach network by equipping necessary skills and resources
Effective community-led outreach with meaningful engagement will be the key for harm reduction in conflict settings. When harm reduction towards sex work is done right, it contributes a lot to the life and safeguarding of female sex workers. Based on this results and best practices, MdM will encourage to replicate this model in the other parts of Myanmar Mission as well as in the future program designing and business development.