|toihen.vn, a website which connects people at risk of HIV to community-based organisations for their support related to HIV testing. – VNS Photo Khánh Dương|
HÀ NỘI - Digital technology and social media are powerful in supporting Việt Nam’s goal to eliminate HIV by 2030, it was announced at a forum yesterday.
The forum was held in Hà Nội to discuss the potential of Việt Nam’s growing social media ecosystem to boost HIV control.
The workshop brought the government, the private sector, and communities together to discuss how to further integrate HIV services and support into the digital age.
Dr Phan Thị Thu Hương, vice director of Việt Nam Administration of HIV/AIDS Control, said that over 50 per cent of Vietnamese people have access to the internet, and a majority of them use social media.
“We need to find creative ways to reach them through new and exciting social media channels,” she said.
Lê Minh Thành, director of social enterprise G-link, said that our online community on social media provides a safe space for people at risk of HIV to learn and talk about safe sex and services such as HIV self-testing and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).
“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,” Thành said.
“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 such as condoms and lubricants, and help them to manage adherence to long-term prevention methods such as PrEP with the iPrEP app on their mobile phones,” he added.
United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and PATH, an international non-profit health organization, initiated a Healthy Markets project that aims to grow a viable market for HIV-related goods and services capable of meeting the needs of people facing the greatest risks.
The project is working with local civil society organizations such as G-link, Lighthouse and Vsmile to test and scale online tools such as the Rainbow Village and Be Me.Be Sexy! Facebook communities and the I Reserve app.
I Reserve app, for example, has helped nearly 500 people make appointments for HIV testing and counselling since last year.
Among those who use the app, 12.5 per cent were diagnosed with HIV—an HIV-positive rate that is twice as high as that seen through face-to-face referrals. This demonstrates that online tools offer effective ways to engage those most at risk of HIV.
Dr John Eyres, USAID Health Office Director, believed that with the introduction of forward-thinking methods such as community-based HIV testing and PrEP, Việt Nam is known as an early adopter of innovative ways to prevent and manage HIV.
Cutting edge online initiatives that are driven by communities, civil society groups, entrepreneurs, and businesses are boosting the uptake of HIV testing, PrEP, and essential products such as condoms, and are playing a critical role in Việt Nam’s efforts to achieve the 90-90-90 goals, he said. – VNS