In August, Adam’s Love will launch Adam’s Love Taiwan, its fourth country-specific HIV outreach campaign targeting at-risk populations through its unique online edutainment approach that combines educational HIV resources with videos and social media posts from national celebrities. Throughout the Asia-Pacific, HIV rates among gay men, other men who have sex with men (MSM), and transgender individuals (collectively, GMT) and other key populations continue to rise, especially among young GMT—who are often hard to reach through traditional on-the-ground outreach programs.
“Adam’s Love challenges the cultural factors that create barriers to care and reaches communities that have little information about HIV and are reluctant to get tested due to stigma and discrimination,” says Dominic Kemps, director of the Positive Action for Children Fund and Patient Advocacy at ViiV Healthcare. (Adam’s Love is supported by ViiV and amfAR, and sponsored by the Thai Red Cross AIDS Research Centre.) “And the model is not just relevant to Asia, but anywhere where lack of information and stigma and discrimination are barriers to accessing HIV services.”
Adam’s Love’s other three edutainment projects, Adam’s Love Thailand and TemanTeman.org Indonesia and Malaysia, are all based in Southeast Asia—and have all been highly successful, garnering a total of nearly three million unique visitors to their websites. The Taiwan campaign marks the group’s first East Asian initiative, and according to Tarandeep Anand, director of Adam’s Love, expanding to a new region has required some new strategies, including establishing their first partnership with a gay sauna and gym, ANIKI World of Wonders, the largest such facility in Taiwan.
“Unlike in some parts of Asia, gay gyms and saunas are very sophisticated and well-established in Taiwan, and visiting them is very popular, making them primary spots where we can reach out to the most-at-risk MSM,” says Anand. After the August launch, they plan to host testing events and educational sessions at ANIKI and other gay saunas and fitness centers in the country, and ANIKI has agreed to co-brand and house many of the campaign’s outreach materials.
While Taiwan is more LGBT-friendly than many countries in Asia, stigma and discrimination against LGBT remain widespread. “One popular gay gym in Taipei was recently raided 26 times in six months,” says Anand. “And in Taiwan, gay stigma equals HIV stigma.” As a result, HIV testing rates and HIV awareness remain low among all populations, including GMT.
“People don’t believe that hospitals and clinics can provide HIV testing that is really anonymous, and we have been unable to break through to at-risk populations,” says Dr. Wing-Wai Wong, a TREAT Asia Network investigator from the Infectious Diseases and AIDS Unit at Taipei Veterans General Hospital, which has been providing anonymous HIV testing since 1997 and is partnering with Adam’s Love Taiwan. “I hope this collaboration with Adam’s Love and the use of the Internet to respect the needs of all people in Taiwan will cause more at-risk individuals to seek voluntary counseling and testing (VCT) services at our hospital.”
In addition to providing confidential, GMT-friendly HIV services, Dr. Wong and the staff at Taipei Veterans General Hospital have also signed on to help design educational web content for Adam’s Love Taiwan and to answer user questions sent through the site’s message boards.
Adam’s Love is partnering with three additional GMT-friendly clinics in the country to help individuals in other locations in Taiwan access convenient, discrimination-free VCT services. And they aim to continue their expansion across the region, with plans to launch websites in South Korea in 2016 and Japan by 2017.