How COVID-19 quarantine measures affect LGBT community NGOs working in the field of HIV prevention

Eurasian Coalition on Health, Rights, Gender and Sexual Diversity  (ECOM) published a report on how the COVID-19 epidemic affects the work of LGBT organizations working on HIV prevention and support in the CEECA region.

In April 2020, ECOM conducted a rapid situation assessment to determine how the COVID-19 epidemic and related quarantine measures affect LGBT NGOs working in the field of HIV prevention and on other sexual health issues in Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia (CEECA).
The organization sought to find out how the work of NGOs has changed due to quarantine measures; to what extent do organizations have the resources to survive in emergency situations; what are they doing to ensure the safety of their clients and staff; and what do they feel is important to do in the future in order to reduce the risks associated with epidemics similar to COVID-19.
33 respondents from 25 cities in 11 CEECA countries participated in the assessment.

The assessment showed that many community organizations in the region have stopped offline work with clients (19 of the 33 respondents participating in the assessment). For 54% of organizations, the number of clients in the first month of quarantine fell by more than half.

In the first month after the introduction of restrictive measures, organizations most often reduced HIV and STI testing services – 39% and 30% of respondents respectively. 27% of respondents reduced the provision of condoms and lubricants, and another 24% curtailed counseling and support services on various issues (in connection with HIV testing and prevention, and psychological support for various subgroups, including PLH).

Only less than half (48%) of respondents stated that their organizations feel confident in the current environment. A significant number fear that if quarantine is extended, they will have to start laying off employees. Some have already begun cutting salaries or the number of staff, while 6% have completely stopped operating.

Nevertheless, the majority of organizations are continuing to operate and are looking for ways to adapt to conditions under quarantine. The main area for adaptation entails transferring services online. Work in this area began a long time ago; before the quarantine, half of the organization surveyed already covered 50% or more of their clients with online services. The primary service offered to clients online is various forms of counseling. All respondents noted the importance of developing various kinds of online and contactless services, including support and education services, and the delivery of ARV therapy drugs to clients’ homes.

Respondents proposed measures to increase the sustainability and security of organizations, for example, by abandoning large, common spaces in offices, forming mini-teams of employees whose working hours do not overlap, or by arranging client reception via appointment only. In addition, respondents consider it important to take into account the administrative and programmatic risks associated with epidemics similar to COVID-19 when planning their work and budget, and to develop the coordination of work with local medical institutions and administrations, as well as with international organizations.

Read the report here

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