“Every week, eleven people aged 15–24 years become infected with HIV. Increasing HIV awareness among young people, especially among young men who have sex with other men (MSM), is important to protect them from being infected with HIV and other sexually transmitted infections,” said Patricia Ongpin, the Country Director of UNAIDS Office for Cambodia, Lao PDR and Malaysia.
With relevance to the World AIDS Day 2023 theme, she dwelt upon the important role of community-led organization in the HIV response, “Empowering communities to take the lead in designing and implementing services is essential, especially through youth networks. These efforts aim to enhance demand for and access to condoms and lubricants as part of a comprehensive HIV prevention strategy. By following this path, we can work towards ending the AIDS epidemic.”
APCOM collaborate with Men’s Health Cambodia (MHC) on an initiative to increase demand and access to increase demand and access to condoms and lubricants for communities, including young people who need it the most, in Phnom Penh, where targeted beneficiaries are provided with creatively-designed packages, titled Fun & Safe HIV Prevention Package. These packages – each consisting of 27 condoms and lubricant sachets – are accessible online and delivered to or picked up in the place that the beneficiaries are most comfortable with.
Kem Vichet, MHC Program Manager, stated,
“The HIV case detection is higher among young key populations, especially young MSM. Hence, we should put into consideration and prioritize intensive HIV intervention for these vulnerable populations. Their access to important HIV prevention tools, including condoms, lubricants and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), should be facilitated.”He also made a stronger point about the importance of this initiative,
“Demand creation efforts, such as this Fun & Safe HIV Prevention Package, needs to be continued and, if possible, expanded. It plays an important role in complementing our existing initiative from The Global Fund and PEPFAR.”
To ensure concerted efforts, a mini demand creation campaign is launched in the beginning of October 2023 to complement the initiative, which promotes the aforementioned packages, along with other relevant information to raise awareness on the importance of HIV prevention. “The heart of the demand creation campaign is not just helping young people have easier access to condoms and lubricants. It is about promoting the message of fun, joy and autonomy over their bodies, as well as collective care. This is because HIV prevention is not only about protecting one’s own body – it is about caring for each other within the community,” commented Bloom Siriwattakanon from Youth Voices Count (YVC).
MHC involves several community influencers to be part of the campaign, who help promote the packages to their respective social media followers, while also harnessing their troops of outreach workers – particularly those who are working on virtual outreach – to deliver the initial 300 package target. Bloom, the HIV/AIDS Officer of YVC, who provided youth-specific technical assistance support for this initiative, further commented, “I really love to see how our country implementing partners, including MHC, listen to the voices of young people and let them lead this cool initiative.”
Also contained in the package – light blue-colored to match MHC logo – is a stylish t-shirt, and printed information, education and communication (IEC) material, which perk up other HIV prevention tools, including information about PrEP. This new-fashioned initiative is adapted from Party Packs launched by APCOM’s testBKK during COVID-19 pandemic times, and is part of the larger Indo-Pacific HIV Prevention Program (period 2021-2023), implemented with support from Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and UNAIDS Regional Support Team for Asia and the Pacific.
Reth Sovanponleu, the Outreach Worker of MHC, acknowledged that the package is an attractive new approach for the communities he serves, and brought forward a strong point, “I am proud to have contributed to society by working in the HIV prevention field and promoting safer sex. For everyone’s better future, let’s not be shy to access condoms.”
Published on: 30 November 2023