Australia-Thailand HIV/AIDS community sector partnership
Issues: It is well established that globalisation and HIV are interconnected, though not necessarily in constructive ways. However, it is possible for the imperative of free trade characteristic of globalisation to present new opportunities for community-based responses to HIV prevention among sexual minorities.
Description: ACON and the Rainbow Sky Association of Thailand (RSAT) are two community-based organisations working on HIV/AIDS issues and the health of sexual minorities, based in Sydney and Bangkok respectively. In 2006/07, they worked together on a mutual capacity building project that consisted of a series of exchanges between the two organisations. This project was funded by the Australian government (at the time neo-conservative and generally hostile to sexual minorities) as a result of the 2005 Free Trade Agreement between Australia and Thailand. Key areas of capacity development included organisational strengthening and program development for RSAT, and work with Thai gay men in Sydney and international engagement for ACON. The project has enabled both organisations to establish a meaningful bilateral connection, outside traditional international development frameworks that are often the conduit of relations between health organisations from developed and developing countries.
Lessons learned: Globalisation can generate unexpected and contradictory opportunities that may benefit socially marginalised groups and promote reciprocity and cooperation between organisations in different countries. However, these opportunities must be specifically pursued and carefully managed to extract their greatest benefits. The implementation of a capacity development partnership project involves many complex administrative, communication and conceptual challenges but can be of great benefit to organisations addressing HIV in their local communities.
Next steps: The link between ACON and RSAT has continued to be maintained through collaborative prevention activities. Arrangements between countries based on trade policy should be investigated, especially by community-based organisations, as potential means of establishing international relationships with like organisations.
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