Bangkok, Thailand, 1 May 2019: A high-level event on ‘Advancing innovation in the HIV Response in Thailand and the Asia-Pacific Region’, was held yesterday to recognize the outstanding achievements of the Thai Red Cross AIDS Research Centre (TRC-ARC) in evidence-based innovation to Fast-Track the HIV response to end AIDS in Thailand and across the Asia and the Pacific Region.
Mr. Michel Sidibé, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UNAIDS, presented a certificate of appreciation to Prof. Dr. Praphan Phanuphak, the TRC-ARC Director who diagnosed the first case of HIV in Thailand in 1985. “The Thai Red Cross AIDS Research Centre has played a leading role for more than 30 years in developing and promoting innovative and effective prevention and treatment approaches such as PMTCT, PrEP, Same-Day ART, and Key Population-Led Health Services. Its contribution expands beyond Thailand, being a catalyst for change for the Asia-Pacific region,” said Mr. Sidibé
The TRC-ARC in Bangkok, Thailand, is an organization under the umbrella of the Thai Red Cross Society, which provides HIV treatment and care, fosters research on HIV and AIDS and trains health care practitioners in providing healthcare free from stigma and discrimination. “I am deeply humbled to receive this recognition from UNAIDS, the change maker that has inspired the way forward to end AIDS in Thailand and in the region,” said Dr Praphan. “I accept this recognition on behalf of all people working with me at the Thai Red Cross and in the community to ensure that no one is left behind. We have demonstrated how science, integrated into community work, brings health care to even the most marginalized people,” he continued.
The Thai Red Cross has been at the forefront of innovation in the HIV response through its multiple projects with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) funded by the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), like the LINKAGES Project managed by FHI 360 and the directly-funded USAID Community Partnership (UCP) Project. “It is because of Dr. Praphan’s stellar example and guidance that the Royal Thai Government is now investing in community-based outreach and screening activities – a significant step in reversing the HIV epidemic in Thailand. For these life-saving, forward-leaning efforts, we congratulate him for this well-deserved honor,” affirmed Melissa A. Jones, Director of Public Health, USAID Regional Development Mission for Asia.
The most important milestones include establishing the Tangerine Clinic, providing community-led health services, pioneering the roll-out of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), offering same day antiretroviral treatment and supporting community-based organizations to develop the skilled workforce needed for sustainable financing.
The Tangerine project is Thailand’s first clinic to provide healthcare and counseling for transgender people. The clinic which is managed by trained transgender staff and gender-sensitive medical professionals, provides hormone counselling and therapy, sexual and reproductive health services, psychosocial counselling, HIV testing and health referrals to public hospitals. “We look forward to continuing to welcome best practices and innovations developed by and for CSO and communities such as Key Populations-Led Health Services to end AIDS”, commented Dr. Mayura Kusump, Representative of the Minister of Public Health, Ministry of Public Health.
The TRC-ARC is leading the way on HIV prevention and treatment. Since the end of 2014, TRC-ARC has been offering PrEP to people most at risk of HIV through Project P-15 and Princess PrEP Program. P-15 is self-sustainable, as clients are charged a minimal fee for a daily supply of pills, along with the recommended counselling and health evaluations. TRC-ARC also leads the Princess PrEP Program, which provides free PrEP through lay providers at partnered community-based organizations, such as the USAID/PEPFAR-supported Service Workers In Group (SWING) Foundation, Rainbow Sky Association of Thailand (RSAT), Mplus, CAREMAT and SISTERS. TRC-ARC works with these community led services providing training on healthcare provision, quality control and sustainable financing. “The Thai Red Cross AIDS Research Centre is a school for civil society and communities. Transforming key population communities from “Recipient” to “Provider” is a dream which has come true in Thailand,” commented Surang Janyam, Director of the Service Workers In Group (SWING) Foundation.
Since 2017, TRC-ARC is offering same day ARV treatment to improve retention and adherence. Clients are initially prescribed a two-week supply of ARV and are referred to health facilities to continue their treatment. Among 2,969 people who had the same-day ART service from July 2017 – March 2019, 1,843 clients had been on ART for at least 6 months, and 58% (1,076/1,843) were tested for viral load at the referred ART maintenance site. Of these, 92% (989/1,076) were virally suppressed.
UNAIDS has been working with Thai Red Cross in different areas, such as the documentation of community centered HIV counseling and testing models, PrEP target setting, Bangkok Fast Track Cities Initiative and the Asia-Pacific Regional Consultation on PrEP Implementation.
The event, organized by UNAIDS, was attended by high-level representatives from the Thai Ministry of Public Health, National Health Security Office, Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Thailand International Cooperation Agency (TICA), representatives from embassies in Asia and the Pacific, PEPFAR (USAID and Thailand MOPH-US DCD Collaboration, TUC), FHI360, UN Resident Coordinator Office in Thailand, the UN Joint Team on AIDS and members of Civil Society.