For many young gay men, getting an HIV test can heighten anxiety, particularly when taken through traditional clinical settings. But what if testing was done in a ‘surprising’ location? What if getting to know your HIV status also gave the chance to win an iPhone 7, the most anticipated smartphone around. That anxiety would be replaced by excitement – or at least, that’s what TestBKK aims to achieve with its inaugural OctoberTest event.
TestBKK, APCOM’s Bangkok-based HIV testing campaign in cities with HIV prevalence among gay men, provides an opportunity for young gay men in Bangkok to know their status and go in the draw to win the new iPhone 7. OctoberTest was originally planned to run from October 8 to November 12. However, due to mourning period imposed in the country following the King’s passing, the campaign had to be paused for two weeks. OctoberTest continued its event from October 16th until the 29th and four lucky winner from its pool of gay testees was announced on World AIDS Day, the December 1st. The winner announcement was live streamed on TestBKK’s Facebook page, hosted by Mr. Gay Thailand 2016’s runner up.
There are two ways young Thai gay men living in Bangkok can be part of OctoberTest. One is by taking the test at OctoberTest’s partnered clinics, or secondly by visiting OctoberTest’s pop up clinics located at various gay clubs in Bangkok. The test is free, confidential and run by gay-friendly healthcare practitioners.
Collaborating with local community partners Rainbow Sky Association of Thailand and SWING, OctoberTest’s pop up clinic is not just another mobile HIV rapid testing site. Once tested, the results are given within 30 to 45 minutes, and is up to 99% accurate at detecting any HIV exposure that may have occurred more than eight to 12 weeks ago. While waiting for results the testee can chill at the OctoberTest lounge, sipping fresh fruit mocktails served by sexy OctoberTest crew bartenders. Both the pop up clinic and lounge are set up nearby different gay clubs on each week, with hunky, topless MCs directing partygoers to sign up for the testing.
The traditional sentiment that young gay men who frequent clubs, bars and events would be unwilling to take a HIV test has been challenged by TestBKK’s innovative engagement campaign. During gCircut Songkran 10 – Asia’s largest gay rave party – held last April, TestBKK created a pop up testing clinic within the party venue, with the number of resulting party goers volunteering for HIV testing being surprisingly high. For a total of nine hours over three nights, the pop up clinic, manned by one doctor and one nurse, drew 99 partygoers into counseling and testing.
“One out of four young gay men in Bangkok is HIV positive, and most of them do not know their status. [TestBKK] aims to put an end to that horrifying statistic,” said Midnight Poonkasetwattana, Executive Director of APCOM, the organisation behind TestBKK. “Early diagnosis of an HIV infection will lead to early treatment ensuring young gay men living with HIV can stay healthy, and at the same time, help reduce the infection rate.”
At the end of the contest, a number of 72 young gay men was recorded to partake OctoberTest.