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New HIV testing campaign urges Thai men to take advantage of rapid testing

New HIV testing campaign urges Thai men to take advantage of rapid testing

Community organizations in Bangkok, Thailand have joined forces to launch the ‘TestBKK’ campaign targeting gay men and other men who have sex with men (MSM) to increase HIV testing in Bangkok.

Using the slogan ‘Suck. F*#k. Test. Repeat’, TestBKK will use its website www.testbkk.org, Facebook, popular websites and mobile applications used by gay men, to spread information and messages designed to encourage more gay men in Bangkok to test for HIV and to be more aware of HIV risks and the importance of using condoms.

‘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,’ APCOM executive director Midnight Poonkasetwattana said.

‘As the majority of new HIV cases in Thailand is occurring amongst MSM, this is a much needed campaign.’

Poonkasetwattana said 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,’ Poonkasetwattana said.

‘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.’

The campaign will use funny short videos which highlight key messages about the importance of testing, and online resources providing 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.

The first of the videos released shows two Thai guys hooking up at a nightclub and then going back to an apartment only to discover they are both bottoms. They then go and get rapid tested at a Bangkok clinic.

A report released in July 2013 by Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified the alarming HIV prevalence among men-who-have-sex with other men in Bangkok.

HIV prevalence in the general population in Thailand 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 been delivered through peer-to-peer networks, including the distribution of condoms and information regarding HIV testing.

But APCOM partner the Rainbow Sky Foundation of Thailand says the boom in hook up apps and dating websites mean that increased investment in education and prevention via online technologies and social media platforms is needed in Thailand

‘The MSM community in Bangkok needs more awareness about the importance of HIV testing,’ Rainbow Sky Association of Thailand director Danai Linjongrat said.

‘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.’

The Rainbow Sky Association is just one of a number of partners working with APCOM to support the campaign.

Another is the HIV/STD Research Program, Thailand MOPH – US CDC Collaboration (TUC) who warned that testing rates must rise to avoid a tragedy..

‘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.’ TUC director Timothy Holtz said.

Watch the campaign’s first video below