Workshop highlights how cutting edge online tools are bringing HIV services and support into the digital age
Kate Davidson | email@example.com
Hanoi, March 23, 2018—Today, the Vietnam Administration for HIV/AIDS Control (VAAC) and the US Agency for International Development's (USAID) Healthy Markets project, implemented by PATH, brought together young Vietnamese innovators who are using digital and online technology to increase access to HIV-related information and services for at-risk populations. The forum in Hanoi brought together government leaders, private-sector partners, social media and communications experts, civil society leaders, and social enterprises to discuss how the rise of social media, mobile apps, and online commerce in Vietnam can be leveraged to support Vietnam's commitment to its 90-90-90 goals to eliminate HIV in Vietnam by 2030.
"Over 50 percent of Vietnamese people have access to the Internet, and majority of them are using social media," said Dr. Phan Thi Thu Huong, vice director of the VAAC. "The majority of populations at risk of HIV are online, and we need to find creative ways to reach them through new and exciting social media channels. Today's enlightening workshop brought the government, the private sector, and communities together to discuss how to further integrate HIV services and support into the digital age."
During the workshop, communications experts T&A Ogilvy presented on social media trends; the USAID/PATH Healthy Markets project and Vietnamese civil society organizations Lighthouse and G-link shared their experiences on using social media and apps to increase access to HIV services such as HIV testing and preexposure prophylaxis (PrEP); and social enterprise Vsmile discussed their expansion into online sales for HIV-related commodities like condoms.
"Our online community on social media provides a safe space for people at risk of HIV to learn and talk about safer sex and services like HIV self-testing and PrEP," said Le Minh Thanh, director of G-link. "We can reach more people online and especially those who are afraid to discuss these topics publicly. We can then translate these online conversations into offline action. For example, we share online booking tools to link people at risk of HIV directly to services, guide them to our e-stores to purchase essentials like condoms and lubricants, and help them to manage adherence to long-term prevention methods like PrEP with the iPrEP app on their mobile phone."
The USAID/PATH Healthy Markets project is working with local civil society organizations like G-link, Lighthouse, and Vsmile to test and scale online tools like the Rainbow Village and Be Me. Be Sexy! Facebook communities and the I Reserve app. Rainbow Village and Be Me. Be Sexy! now have over 230,000 and nearly 10,000 followers, respectively, while the I Reserve app has helped 479 people make appointments for HIV testing and counseling since last year. Of those who used I Reserve, 12.5 percent were diagnosed with HIV—an HIV-positivity rate that is twice as high as seen through face-to-face referrals—demonstrating that online tools offer effective ways to engage those most at risk of HIV.
"Focused online communication offers the critical potential to reach very high-risk individuals who would normally not seek HIV services. Engaging people through Facebook and social networking apps such as Grindr, and tapping into 'big data' enables rapid reach to hundreds of thousands people across the country," shared Dr. Kimberly Green, USAID/PATH Healthy Markets chief of party.
"With the introduction of forward-thinking methods like community-based HIV testing and PrEP, Vietnam is known as an early adopter of innovative ways to prevent and manage HIV," said USAID health office director Dr. John Eyres. "Today, we heard about cutting edge online initiatives that are driven by communities, civil society groups, entrepreneurs, and businesses. These new approaches are boosting uptake of HIV testing, PrEP, and essential products like condoms, and play a critical role in Vietnam's efforts to achieve the 90-90-90 goals."
This workshop highlighted the power of digital technology and social media to support Vietnam's goal to eliminate HIV by 2030. The USAID/PATH Healthy Markets project continues to facilitate innovative use of online tools by social enterprises, civil society organizations, and private clinics to dramatically increase access to HIV-related information and accelerate uptake of HIV services among key populations.
USAID leads the US government's international development and disaster assistance through partnerships and investments that save lives, reduce poverty, strengthen democratic governance, and help people emerge from humanitarian crises. Following over 50 years of improving lives through development and humanitarian assistance, USAID continues to support partners to become self-reliant and capable of leading their own development journeys.. Please visit www.usaid.gov or follow www.facebook.com/USAID/ for more information. Vietnam-specific sites are www.usaid.gov/vietnam and www.facebook.com/USAIDVietnam.
The Healthy Markets project is a five-year initiative that aims to grow a viable market for HIV-related goods and services capable of meeting the needs of populations facing the greatest risks. Healthy Markets aims to improve the environment for private-sector and social-enterprise engagement and investment; increase demand for HIV-related goods and services; and generate a sustainable supply of high-quality HIV commodities and services that are accessible and affordable. By growing a market for HIV-related goods and services, Healthy Markets (1) contributes to improved sustainability and country ownership of the HIV response and (2) supports efforts to reduce HIV incidence, including 90-90-90. Healthy Markets is funded by USAID and implemented by PATH in partnership with the Center for Creative Initiatives in Health and Population and T&A Ogilvy. PATH works closely with manufacturers, distributors, private health care providers, pharmaceutical and diagnostics companies, national and local-level governments, social enterprises, and community-based organizations.