APCOM’s Bangkok-based HIV testing campaign targeting young gay men – TestBKK – brought down a high-altitude fantasy of Mile High Club on to their recent outreach at White Party Bangkok – Asia’s biggest gay new year party spanning from 30 December 2016 to 1 January 2017.
The term Mile High Club refers to two people engaging in sexual activity in a lavatory of a flying airplane. It’s the “club” that pilots, flight attendants and daring airline passengers have been whispering about since early aviation era. Some people think the club is a fairy tale, while others have confessed on “joining the club.” Departing from this fantasy, TestBKK’s outreach concept was born to engage thousands of gay men who flocked the party with HIV messaging and a chance to take free HIV and syphilis rapid testing within the venue.
With “Let your fear of getting tested take off” messaging, TestBKK’s presence in the party boards in two different terminals: the booth and the clinic. Designed as an airplane lavatory and manned by pretty boys dressed in aviation-themed costumes, the booth offered the partygoers the mile high club photo engagement as well as free condoms and TestBKK’s memorabilia. We call it the world’s only airlines with condom-ready mile high club. Hundreds of gay partygoers excitingly “joined the club” throughout the three-night parties.
The booth is excitingly sex positive. It’s an unexpected but compelling way to get told about the importance of safe sex and testing.
“[The booth] is excitingly sex positive. It’s an unexpected but compelling way to get told about the importance of [safe sex] and testing,” said a young partygoer hailing from South Korea.
The clinic, located in a separate, less crowded part of the venue to provide the partygoers a more discrete feeling, turned out to garner a great traffic. Run by Silom Pulse Clinic – one of TestBKK’s clinic partners – the clinic reported 108 testees from various origin countries at the last night of the party.
“I didn’t expect to find an access to free HIV test [in the party],” admitted a young gay Filipino partygoer, “but this [free testing] is such a great reminder to check my status regularly.”
Prior and after the (finger prick) test, the testee received sexual and mental health support from a gay-friendly counselor. If tested positive for HIV and/or syphilis, the counselor or the doctor will refer them to the TestBKK’s partner clinics in Bangkok – if the testee lives in Bangkok, or the clinics in their origin countries – if the testee does not live in Bangkok, for early treatment. A handy list of gay-friendly clinics that provide HIV services in Asian countries has been prepared and fact-checked by TestBKK prior to the party.
On the very same weekend, in which many of the gay-friendly HIV service providers in Bangkok were closed for new year holidays, TestBKK also guaranteed free testing for anyone who took the test at the two locations of Silom Pulse Clinic outside of the party as long as they showed TestBKK logo during the registration.
TestBKK’s commitment to encouraging young gay men to take the test will continue at the next outreach on the upcoming gCircuit SK11, notably known as Asia’s largest gay circuit, in April. In the meantime, the campaign’s viral GayOK Bangkok webseries will launch its second season to continue raising the HIV awareness among the young gay men.