In September, TestBKK, APCOM’s HIV testing campaign targeting young gay men in Bangkok, launched a series of manga (Japanese-styled cartoon) about HIV-related information and services, called ‘G-Teens the Series’.
Targeting young gay men ages 15 to 24, the six-episode manga is anchored in casual conversations among a group of four gay friends sharing their personal issues and exchanging information about HIV-related topics. The topics include PrEP, PEP, Antiretroviral Treatment and U=U, Testing Reminder, Risk Assessment Tool, and Online Booking Platform.
The four characters represent different lifestyles in gay community whose needs for HIV-related services also vary: T, the hook-up pro, as a PrEP advocate; S, the gym lover, and B, the smart nerd, as a serodiscordant couple; and K, the drama queen, as a rookie in HIV prevention.
G-Teens the Series is a product catering for the need of HIV information material that is not “too boring with academic and technical words and limited visuals” – the unanimous descriptions of traditional online HIV information resources from young gay men who participated in TestBKK group discussion prior to the production of the manga series.
“[the conventional HIV knowledge materials] are not interesting and not related to me. I will not read them unless I am concerned to expose to HIV,” shared one of the FGD participants.
To tackle the issue, TestBKK, funded by USAID LINKAGES Project managed by FHI360, collaborated with Bearbie Studio, a professional animator and illustrator who is also identified himself as a gay man, to create the colorful, easy-to-digest, and fun HIV information manga series.
“G-Teen the Series gives information about HIV in an easy-to-understand way. It is useful for young gay men, including myself, who has never known about all those HIV prevention methods like PrEP or PEP. I wish to work together with TestBKK in producing a short animation about HIV knowledge in the future,” Said Beer, the illustrator.
The campaign expects that cartoon will not only increase knowledge around HIV prevention and treatment methods, but also reduce HIV-related stigma. These, in turn, positively influence HIV testing and counseling uptake among young gay men.
To expand the exposure of the campaign’s material to younger generation, besides TestBKK website and Facebook page, the manga series have been uploaded to various online forums where adolescent and gay-themed contents are widely discussed, namely Postjung.com and Dek-D.com. Three weeks after the first episode was published, the blogs have gained almost 3,000 views throughout the forums.
To read all chapters of testBKK’s G-Teens the Series and to stay in touch with testBKK’s health intervention, visit testBKK’s Facebook page.