HIV epidemic among men who have sex with men (MSM) in Hong Kong stays out of control. HIV testing is one of the recommended prevention strategies, especially since timely treatment with good adherence can reduce risk of transmission by more than 90%. Still, local HIV testing rate among MSM remained low, with 34-57% never tested for HIV.
Self-testing is a promising means to increase testing coverage, and test kits are already widely available for order online or at local drug stores. The problem is, some do not know how to use the kit, and others rather not test at all in case they cannot cope with a positive result. Yet existing services offered by NGOs do not offer pre-testing counselling or instructions on how to use test kits. As these services are mostly free of charge, NGOs may find them hard to sustain without external funding.
The team has seen significant increase in testing rate with online supporting services on their trial run. The team hence moves on to build a full-cost recovery service model for NGOs to eventually run on their own. They are putting forward two tiers of chargeable online services (HK$250 for comprehensive services, HK$150 for simplified), integrating real-time instructions and pre-test/post-test counselling with HIV self-testing.
The model is highly sustainable, easily transferable to other NGOs and even other high-risk groups, offering higher privacy and convenience with its online nature, while preserving counselling component from traditional testing models. The team is organising training workshops for staff of AIDS Concern, the largest NGO working on HIV prevention in Hong Kong, and online administrators to implement the model.
The coverage of HIV testing thus detection of positive cases has increased. Self-testing is proven in curbing risks of secondary HIV transmission and sexual risk behaviours, crucial in controlling the spread of HIV, thus reducing medical costs. Given the full cost-recovery nature, this service can be sustained by NGOs and serves as an exemplar of strengthening collaboration between the academia and the social welfare sector.
Having taken up the model, AIDS Concern will lead its future implementation and development. The project team will continue transferring the experience and offer consultancy to other NGOs to further the service or adapt it for other at-risk populations, such as sex workers.
– 1600 MSM
– 1 NGO
Johnson was awarded the Early Career Award by the International Society of Behavioural Medicine in 2016. Vastly experienced in interdisciplinary behavioural health research, he was awarded eleven research grants in the capacity of Principal Investigator (PI) or co-PI. He is also the Associate Director of the Community Research Program on AIDS.
Johnson received his PhD in Public Health from CUHK.
Having published over 480 papers, Joseph is internationally recognised in the field of behavioural health and implementation science. With his interdisciplinary training and experiences, he dedicated over 20 years to HIV-related research in China. He has been the Director of AIDS Concern since 2005 and is the founding President of the Hong Kong Society of Behavioural Health. Joseph received both his PhD in demography from the University of California, Berkeley.
Phoenix is a chartered psychologist specialising in applying psychological theories to develop health promotion, particularly in the areas of HIV prevention, online support for patient empowerment, and stigma among social minorities. She is an Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society and the Hong Kong Psychological Society. Phoenix received her PhD from the University of Nottingham.