Suck. F*#k. Test. Repeat. A campaign to increase HIV testing among gay men in Bangkok

Community organisations in Bangkok, Thailand have joined to launch a campaign ‘TestBKK’ targeted to gay men and other men who have sex with men (MSM) to increase HIV testing awareness in Bangkok. Using the memorable slogan ‘Suck. F*#k. Test. Repeat’, TestBKK targets online platforms through its website www.testbkk.org, Facebook, popular websites and mobile applications used by gay men, to disseminate key information and messages designed to encourage more gay men in Bangkok to test for HIV and to be more aware of HIV risks and importance of protection.

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gCircuit party 11th-13th April, 2014

    “The campaign targets the young gay men to encourage them to get tested to know their HIV status and regularly test for HIV in a way that speaks directly to the target group. As the majority of new HIV cases in Thailand is occurring amongst MSM, this is a much needed campaign.” Said Midnight Poonkasetwattana, Executive Director of APCOM, the organisation who developed the TestBKK campaign.

The campaign combines innovative, humorous short videos which highlight key messages about the importance of testing, and a comprehensive web –based resource providing practical information about gay and MSM-friendly services in Bangkok providing HIV tests, as well as general HIV prevention information including the importance of consistent use of condoms and water- or silicone-based lubricants.

A report released in July 2013 by Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health and the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), identified the alarming HIV prevalence among men-who-have- sex with other men (MSM) in Bangkok.  HIV prevalence in the general population is 1.4%, however, HIV prevalence among MSM has risen sharply, from 17% in 2003 to 29% in 2011.   It is estimated that without increased efforts, this figure could rise to as high as 40% by 2015.

To date traditional forms of HIV prevention and education in Thailand have delivered through peer-to-peer networks, including the distribution of condoms and information regarding HIV testing. But the boom of online technology and social networking platforms such as Grindr, Jack’d and Hornet mean that while this continues to be a very effective strategy to influence meaningful behavior change among MSM, increased investment in education and prevention in the form of mass media communication, utilising online technologies and social media platforms is needed.

Mr. Danai Linjongrat, Director of Rainbow Sky Association of Thailand said, “The MSM community in Bangkok needs more awareness about the importance of HIV testing.  These messages should to speak directly to the community. It’s important that MSM talk more about HIV testing, this will help to reduce the fear and stigma associated with, this is the only way we are going to have an impact.”

A number of partners are working with APCOM to support the campaign. Timothy Holtz, Director, HIV/STD Research Program, Thailand MOPH – US CDC Collaboration (TUC), said:  “We need to drastically increase the numbers of MSM testing, particularly young MSM. An important concern is the proportion of people who haven’t tested or tested recently and don’t know what their HIV status is.”

By getting tested and knowing your HIV status; you are able to access the information, care and support services available.  Encouraging people, friends and people you know is an important step towards reducing the epidemic here in Bangkok.   For Midnight Poonkasetwattana, the launch comes at a time of opportunity—just prior to the Thai New Year ‘Songkran’ celebrations, a well know party season for the gay community in Bangkok.   “We are excited about the launch of this campaign. It will be one of the largest campaigns, involving a number of community, government and private sector partnerships, released in Bangkok focused on the issue about HIV testing for gay men.”

Check out their first promotional video: Bottoms up!

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