WHO recommends to strategically implement a range of differentiated HIV testing approaches, including facility-based testing, community-based testing, HIV self-testing (HIVST), partner services and, for key populations, social network-based HIV testing. However, some of these innovative approaches and accompanying evidence-based demand creation interventions have not yet been implemented and effectively scaled up in the Asia and Pacific region. The recent UNAIDS Seizing The Moment report reveals alarming data that in the Asia-Pacific region:
- Gay men and other men who have sex with men account for 44% of new HIV infections;
- Young gay men and other men who have sex with men (15-24 years old) account for 52% of new HIV infections;
- Half of key population living with HIV are not aware of their HIV status;
- Only one quarter of gay men and other men who have sex with men and people who inject drugs in the region—and less than half of transgender people and female sex workers—receive the HIV prevention services they need;
- Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) access is still limited.
APCOM conducted in 2017, Understanding the Values and Preferences of Men who have Sex with Men and Transgender People on HIV Self-Testing and Partner Notification in Asia and the Pacific, the qualitative study focussed on Indonesia, Pakistan, Philippines, and Thailand.
“Everyone should have access to HIV testing kit, like a pregnancy test. We’ve witnessed the benefit of early testing for earliest treatment, that it has dramatically decreased [AIDS-related] morbidity and mortality. HIVST kits must be easy to use, with high accuracy, available and accessible.”Participant from the Thai FGDs.
In Thailand, the Thai FDA has recently approved HIVST for sample blood test and oral fluid type to be commercially available for the public.
HIV self-testing is a test for triage, meaning that it is a screening process and does not provide a definitive HIV-positive diagnosis. A reactive (positive) HIVST result is not equivalent to an HIV positive diagnosis, and that All reactive HIVST results need to be followed by further confirmatory testing by a trained provider. This is another important tool in the fight against HIV, where some parts of the region could not access HIV services easily, and provide differentiated HIV testing approaches, particularly in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic which countries need to modify service delivery models such as using online digital platforms and social media.
With this welcome news, APCOM’s testBKK conducted an online survey with clients who ordered our online Safe Play pack (a HIV prevention care package that includes condoms, lubricants and prevention tools). The survey asked if they would want an HIV self testing, and there is an overwhelming feedback of 89% (i.e. 357 people out of 401 respondents) that they would also like to have an HIV self testing included in the Safe Play pack.
APCOM is partnering with Love Foundation to promote an HIV self testing kit called “Insti” a blood-based testing kit that is simple and can be performed within minutes. TestBKK will start promoting HIV self testing from October and will utilise its facebook, twitter and instagram, also, testBKK will provide basic information on the test kit and a link to purchase the test kit.
In the website the basic information will consist of
- Where to access HIV self testing?
- What should you expect when you use HIV self testing?
- How to use a HIV self testing kit?
- The process of using the HIV self testing
- What does a result means, and what step you should do next
- What does a negative test result mean?
- What does a positive result mean?
- Result confidentiality
“We’re very excited about the approval of the HIVST kit in Thailand, and that there’s a demand from our community who’s already engaging with APCOM through our testBKK campaign to access the test kits. We need more countries in our region to fast-tack approval and development of supportive policies for new HIV self testing, implementation and scale up. Key populations and communities need to be actively engaged in the design and delivery of the service models as well,”Midnight, APCOM Executive Director
- Demand for HIV prevention during Covid-19: TestBKK Experience
- A win-win scenario: APCOM’s testBKK engagement and partnership with the private sector
- Leveraging digital influencers for HIV messaging: testBKK experience