Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Location, location: mobile dating apps and HIV

Nest (right) and friend Jesse look at gay dating apps on a smart phone
© UNICEF EAPRO/2015/Andy Brown
Nest is a 19-year-old living in Bangkok. Like many other gay adolescents, he uses mobile apps to meet up for dates. “I use apps to meet other guys nearby,” he says. “I don’t like to have sex at the first meeting, I prefer to chat and get to know the person first. But some of my friends just meet up for sex.”

A new report, Adolescents: Under the Radar in the Asia-Pacific AIDS Response, shows that the Asia-Pacific region is facing a ‘hidden epidemic’ of HIV among adolescents. Although new HIV infections are falling overall, they are rising among teenagers. In 2014, there were at least 220,000 adolescents aged 10-19 living with HIV in the region, with major cities like Bangkok and Hong Kong hubs of new infections.

Monday, 14 September 2015

In Myanmar, education helps build a joint future

Thu Zar Moe (right) studies in a classroom at Thea Chaung displacement camp
Hlaing Hlaing Oo (left) studies at Mingan School, not far from the camp
© UNICEF Myanmar/2015/Thame
Rakhine State is one of the poorest and most isolated parts of Myanmar, and suffers from complex humanitarian needs and unaddressed development needs. Already marked by a high rate of poverty, the socioeconomic situation in Rakhine further deteriorated in 2012 following the outbreak of violence between majority Buddhist and minority Muslim communities, which displaced many Muslims who were relocated in controlled camps.

The floods that hit Myanmar in July and August this year have exacerbated these problems, with no regard for the lines that have divided these communities for so long. Children from both communities – in camps and villages – have felt the impact on their education.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Myanmar: fishermen at sunset, balloons over Bagan

Vendors wearing traditional longyis at a weekend market in Yangon
© Andy Brown/Myanmar 2014
In the two years since I first visited Burma, now increasingly called Myanmar, much has changed but much remains the same. Construction of the new Myanmar is proceeding apace in Yangon. Cranes and half-built skyscrapers litter the skyline, coffee shops are popping up along busy main roads, and young people are beginning to adopt western fashion.

But outside the capital, life goes on much as it has for the past several centuries. Here, roads deteriorate to earth tracks, towns and villages are largely blacked out after dark, monks collect alms in copper bowls at first light, both men and women wear traditional ‘longyi’ skirts, and the bicycle remains a common form of transport.

Saturday, 3 January 2015

People of Banglumphu sois

© Andy Brown/Thailand/2014
Over the last few months, I’ve been exploring the backstreets or ‘small sois’ of Banglumphu, where the UNICEF office is based. One of the things I love about Bangkok is this maze of alleys, just wide enough for a motorbike to get down, that exist a few blocks back from the main roads. Here, the din of traffic fades away and people sit around outside their houses chatting or playing chess during the ‘cool hours’ before sunset.

Thai people generally love having their photo taken and I’ve got bolder about asking them. As my Thai language has improved, I can have longer conversations, although I still rely on Thai friends like Kay, Nutt and Audrey for more abstract discussions about history, drama and ghosts. Here are some of my favourite local characters: