“People-centered virtual approaches are the future of HIV prevention,”
said Indunil Dissanayaka from Heart to Heart, a community-based organization in Sri Lanka at the Regional Asia Pacific Webinar “Virtual Intervention for HIV Services” conducted on 16 May 2023.
The webinar is focused on meaningful discussion among virtual intervention experts and implementers. Ranging from community-based programmes such as what Indunil is doing, to programmes specifically designed for community such as one implemented by PATH India (presented by G. S. Shreenivas), the discussion really showed how these interventions are robust and impactful. Most especially, substantial support and meaningful participation from the government side has been received for the latter.
The panel discussion getting more and more interesting as we heard from Grindr for Equality. Stylized as G4E, it’s a platform conceived by Grindr, one of the largest geo-location dating applications for gay men and LGBTIQ+ community, with a mission to work towards a world that is safe, just, and inclusive for people of all sexual orientations and gender identities. The platform has provided continuous support on issues related to safety, sexual health, and advocacy, and contributed to countless community-led initiatives globally.
During the panel, Steph Niaupari (Equality Outreach Manager of G4E), who uses they/them pronouns, offered tips on how communities can expand their reach utilizing virtual platforms, including how to connect with G4E for any collaborations. “Digital health messaging can change lives. It has the power to reach and enhance the effectiveness of community HIV prevention services,” they commented.
The 90 minutes webinar kicked-off by a presentation from Purvi Shah as the representative from UNAIDS & WHO. She said, “Service delivery through the use of virtual interventions is an important ‘self-care’ option that needs to be made available for all populations seeking services,” while outlining the importance of virtual interventions, including demand creation, and how it really fills in the gaps for HIV testing.
Included in Purvi’s presentation are best practices from several countries across the Asia Pacific region and snapshots of the Policy Brief: Virtual Interventions in Response to HIV, Sexually-transmitted Infections and Viral Hepatitis published in 2022, which aims to support programmes and governments to plan and implement virtual interventions to accelerate the progress towards meeting global goals. It’s a really useful presentation that provides informative insights for the participants of the webinar (nearly 200 people registered for the event).
Purvi mentioned the importance of planning and using available resources in an efficient manner and how it is crucial to integrate interventions into national programmes and other existing programmes that have been happening in the fight to end AIDS for decades. While this innovative approach has received mixed response among programme implementers and other stakeholders – particularly on the argument related to methods of measuring impacts and ‘return of investment’ – virtual intervention is undeniably an important complement to existing HIV interventions and its sustainability in the HIV programming is very much worth to be considered.
About the Contributor
Nicky Suwandi (He/Him/His)
Knowledge Management & Learning
Nicky led the demand generation initiatives during SKPA-1, and with his current position, he is aiming to facilitate discussions and promote cross-learning in the SKPA-2 project and beyond. In addition, his work is deeply rooted in creating meaningful changes for key population communities, specifically on HIV online interventions, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and sexualized drug use or chemsex. Hailing from Indonesia, he is equipped with a degree in communication studies, and have experience working in a national network for men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender women, which comprises more than 80 community-based organizations and support groups across the archipelago.