PULSE is a community-led research and advocacy project to generate information and to improve access of young gay men to HIV services. Funded by 5% Initiative led by Expertise France, PULSE comprehends a 3-year long initiative encompassing research, community capacity strengthening and advocacy effort that aims to improve the lives of young gay and bisexual men and other young men who have sex with men (YMSM). Five countries of Greater Mekong are selected in the pilot phase of the project: Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.
In 2018, PULSE has had significant achievements
APCOM, in collaboration with our sub-recipients, has made substantial progress in implementing PULSE over the last year with the following key achievements:
- Wave 1 of the PULSE survey launched on 30 March 2018 in Cambodia, Laos PDR and Thailand.The survey closed on 31 May 2018. In total, 2865 young MSM completed the survey: 1477 in Thailand, 769 in Cambodia and 619 in Lao PDR. Data analysis is underway. The survey was widely promoted through social media including Facebook and private and public chat groups, dating apps, online influencers and ‘offline’ events by sub-recipients in their local language as well as APCOM.
- Mapping of online actors and venues popular with young MSM in each respective country was completed in late 2017. This provided critical information for the promotion of the survey in country.
- Pilot testingof the survey tool was conducted with young MSM in Cambodia, Laos PDR, Thailand and Vietnam in February – March 2018. Pilot testing provided valuable feedback on the survey, validated the online mapping and provided insight into the most appropriate incentives for participation.
Crucial lessons have been derived from PULSE implementation
The data on participation and completion in the online survey demonstrates the acceptability and feasibility of the online-only survey format to sample young MSM, particularly in Lao PDR and Cambodia where online surveys have not been used extensively (in contrast to Thailand and Vietnam). It has further demonstrated the capacity of community based organisations to conduct research.
The experience in promoting the survey to this group of young MSM in this first wave has provided crucial information on effective promotions and engagement strategies and has significantly strengthened the capacity of our country partners to effectively promote the survey in subsequent rounds. Indeed, as the survey was open for 9 weeks and as participation was monitored weekly, we were able to proactively improve the promotion strategy. Whilst online dating apps were cited as a venue popular with young MSM, and while the responses in terms of click throughs were high, dating app advertising did not appear to translate to survey completion. In contrast, offline advertising in Cambodia and Lao PDR was quite effective, and social media influencers were incredibly effective in Thailand.