“In 2023, 89% of estimated new HIV infections are among men who have sex with men (MSM) and nearly half (47%) are among the youth ages 15-24 years old. On the other hand, the Philippines has shown consistently low condom use despite established effectiveness in preventing HIV infection. Hence, interventions to increase demand and access to condoms and lubricants among MSM are key to reverse the trend,” said Dr Louie Ocampo, the Country Director of UNAIDS Philippines.
He added, “Promoting condom use creates a supportive environment for safer sex practices and helps reduce the stigma associated with seeking sexual health resources. Access to condoms and lubricants empowers individuals to take control of their sexual health. It allows them to make informed decisions and engage in responsible sexual behavior.”
APCOM collaborate with HIV & AIDS Support House (HASH) on an initiative to increase demand and access to condoms and lubricants for MSM, including young MSM, in Metro Manila area, where targeted beneficiaries are provided with creatively-designed HIV prevention packages, titled #SaferPlay Package. These packages – consisting of 10 condoms and lubricants, as well as other relevant materials – are accessible online and delivered to or picked up in the place that the beneficiaries are most comfortable with.
The #SaferPlay Package was launched at the beginning of August 2023 together with a mini demand creation campaign complementing the initiative, which promotes sex positive messaging, along with other relevant information to raise awareness on the importance of HIV prevention. HASH produced four short videos utilizing community influencers, each creatively-packaged in different moods for educational, as well as entertainment purposes. The package is ordered online, and then a nondescript package is delivered via courier to an address that’s convenient to pick up.
“The collaboration goes beyond the distribution of condoms. By integrating vital components like information on community-based screening (CBS), pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), and forging partnership with the private sector that provided discount coupons, we’ve not only ensured safer practices but also brought HASH intimately closer to the community,” explained Desi Andrew Ching, HASH Executive Director. “This initiative is a testament to our commitment to comprehensive health, community engagement, and making informed choices for a healthier, empowered future for young MSM in Manila,” he added further.
Johann De Leon, HASH People & Culture Officer, provided comments on the importance of the initiative,
“This project provides safe access to essential resources and stands as a beacon of informed health choices for young MSM in a city as dynamic as Manila. Perhaps more than that, the initiative is a powerful assertion of the right to love freely and mindfully through individual and collective empowerment.”
This 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.
The high demand for the #SaferPlay Packages – evident in merely just one month after its launching date – driving HASH to reassess their package content and method of delivery. In the end, HASH delivered a total of 600 packages, a whopping number from the initial target of 300. Bloom Siriwattakanon from Youth Voices Count (YVC) Team, who provided youth-specific technical assistance support for this project, commented, “HASH have a strong social media presence among the communities, and with right calculated approaches, they managed to reach beyond the limit.” They also added a compliment, “Exceptional work!”
To get a better understanding on the impact of the initiative for community beneficiaries, Geoff Domingo, one of the package recipients, provided his testimony, “Having the #SaferPlay Package is the best reminder and reward there is. The included mug souvenir becomes a constant reminder that you can access HIV testing and preventive prophylaxis, and the gift certs from partner establishments are a perk for minding your sexual health. Thanks to HASH for this service initiative!”
Published on: 30 November 2023