Wet and wild, Thais certainly know how to celebrate their traditional New Year with a splash. During Thailand’s festive Songkran Festival, which runs from 13 to 15 April each year, Bangkok has been hosting Songkran celebration exclusively catered to gay men. In addition to the city’s pink districts being a magnet for gay locals and tourists who are desired to celebrate Songkran with their gay counterparts, the City of Angels is eminently known for hosting gCircuit SK, a series of day pool parties and evening rave events over a course of three days, frequently praised as Asia’s largest gay rave party.
TestBKK, APCOM’s Bangkok-based HIV testing and sexual health campaign, is therefore once again equipping the city with both onsite and online outreach activities during the festive season. Funded by Elton John AIDS Foundation and other development agencies, TestBKK aims to deliver free HIV testing to the gay individuals who are celebrating Songkran in Bangkok as well as to provide them with other key sexual health knowledge such as information relating to PrEP and PEP.
With the success of the recent positive sexual health-themed web series GAYOK BANGKOK launched in March, TestBKK has secured a pool of followers of more than 60,000 gay audiences, in which 70% of them are living in Bangkok, through its Facebook page and YouTube channel. TestBKK’s Songkran online campaign, which runs from 11th to 29th April, is undoubtedly more strategic and effective than any previous online sexual health campaigns ever run in the city. The online touchpoints include social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, and dating apps such as Hornet and Grindr, which are notably Thailand’s largest and world’s biggest gay-oriented geo-socio app, respectively.
In addition to the online campaign, TestBKK has collaborated with two private gay-friendly clinics that remain open in regular work hours of both weekdays and weekend, while most of the sexual health clinics in town are closed during and following the Songkran week. The collaboration, therefore, ensured the accessibility of HIV testing, PEP, and PrEP among the gay individuals in Bangkok throughout the holiday period. Over 300 gay men took the test from these clinics.
The Gay Passport – Asia’s largest gay travel website – named TestBKK as Best HIV Testing Campaign Ever.
TestBKK also once again collaborated with gCircuit organiser in ensuring that the partygoers are ushered by key HIV knowledge and preventive kits while they are splashing water under the bright daylight and dancing the night away under the strobe light. gCircuit SK is running its 10th year this year. Many gay men from all over Asia consider gCircuit as their bucket list. Each year alone, gGircuit has been attended by at least 10,000 visitors. The year 2016 is expected to mark gCircuit’s biggest party within its history, and it was. TestBKK’s engaging booth, attended by sexy male models who disseminated condoms and water-based lubricants as well as leaflets relating to sex-positive health information, PEP and PrEP; along with the campaign’s attractive freebies and fancy assortments, were present throughout gCircuit 2016 parties. At each of the evening party, for the first time ever, TestBKK erected a popup sexual health clinic within the venue to provide free, confidential and anonymous HIV rapid testing for the party attendees who’d like to know their status and/or consult about their sexual health. From the total of three nights, 99 partygoers took the test.
Following TestBKK’s outreach at Night 1 of gCircuit, The Gay Passport, Asia’s largest gay travel website, named TestBKK as Best HIV Testing Campaign Ever.
Over the same period of Songkran holiday, TestBKK was also a communication partner of the 2016 edition of The Annual Sex and Pleasure Survey (ASAP) conducted by APCOM, Mahidol University and University of Amsterdam. The research is designed to understand the many fun activities that gay individuals plan to do during Songkran. The output of the research is to make sex a fun and safe experience for everyone. With the help of TestBKK, the survey reached 1255 respondent from this year – an increase of 1490% from the respondents of the last year’s survey.
Young people aged under 25 comprise over 40% of new HIV infections worldwide. TestBKK’s campaign directly targets young gay men who are avid users of online platforms and are often at highest risk for HIV, but not necessarily have been reached by traditional outreach campaign. TestBKK is confident that its Songkran campaign and partnership will stimulate interest and action on protecting sexual health among young gay men – locals and foreigners – during the country’s most festive season.
TestXXX, APCOM’s regional city-based HIV testing campaign in cities with high HIV prevalence among MSM, aims to increase the uptake of HIV testing among the young cohort of the population (i.e., YMSM). Bangkok-based TestBKK is the TestXXX’s pilot campaign and is currently running its second year.
To learn more about TestBKK’s Songkran Campaign, go to TestBKK.org/Songkran
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