Start-Ups Prepare to Lead the HIV Awareness Movement Online
While the number of people getting HIV treatment is increasing, 9.4 million people globally are still unaware about their condition.
While the number of people getting HIV treatment is increasing, 9.4 million people globally are still unaware about their condition.(Photo: iStock)

Start-Ups Prepare to Lead the HIV Awareness Movement Online

According to a new report ‘Knowledge is Power’, released by UNAIDS ahead of World AIDS Day, 79 percent of people living with HIV in India were aware of their condition. But the percentage of those receiving treatment out of the total was just 56 percent; a gap of 23 percent.

So, What Is Needed to Address This Gap?

Awareness through all available platforms to reach the unreached population.

In a first one-of-its-kind initiative, the reTHINK HIV Grand Challenge, launched by FHI 360 in collaboration with National AIDS Control Organization (NACO), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), promotes use of latest technologies to spread awareness in the virtual space.

Why We Need Unique Digital Awareness Ideas?

According to reTHINK HIV some of the primary HIV prevention activities in India are focused on groups called key populations who have the highest risk of contracting and transmitting HIV. These include female sex workers, men having sex with men, people who inject drugs and transgenders.

HIV prevention activities have also focused on Bridge Populations, mainly clients or partners of male and female sex workers, who are at the risk of contracting HIV.

Both key populations and bridge populations are provided with specialized prevention services and messages through targeted interventions.

The National AIDS Control Program (NACP) has maintained a large focus on physical and site-based intervention i.e. intervention that take place at physical places where key populations and bridge populations (like migrants and truck drivers) are available in person.

While this may be the most suitable outreach in most cases even today, it is being increasingly observed that there is a trend among interested population to use newer and technology-driven means to access other interested partners for sexual encounters.

Increasing number of sexually active populations have taken to these methods quite comfortably, and are not necessarily available on the physical sites for interactions and interventions.

Additionally, there is a gap in knowledge about the nature, risk and vulnerability of the population accessing sexual networks through virtual space.

Also Read : 21% of HIV+ Indians Are Unaware Of their Status: UNAIDS Report

Chatbot, Dating Apps for HIV/AIDS Awareness

Awareness through all available platforms to reach the unreached population is needed to bridge the awareness gap. 
Awareness through all available platforms to reach the unreached population is needed to bridge the awareness gap. 
(Photo: iStockphoto)

To address some of the emerging challenges in the field of HIV/AIDS in India through innovative use of digital technology three start-ups have been identified to participate in this reTHINK HIV Grand challenge.

  1. Jubi.ai is collating thousands of common queries through prominent social media platforms and feeding them into a chatbot which will house over thousands of widely used questions.
  2. OneKeyCare Ventures is undertaking the task of building embedded games for HIV/AIDS awareness on popular dating applications.
  3. Twistle has been running an effective social media campaign to engage with the netizens of the country, with estimates of nearly 3,300 people being registered in three months. It is a patient engagement platform. Someone who is registered with twistle will get customised service. Twistle will make a treatment plan for them.

The National Health Policy 2017 also promises to achieve the global target of 90:90:90 for HIV/AIDS by 2020, that is, 90 per cent of all people living with HIV will know their HIV status, 90 per cent of all people diagnosed with HIV infection will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy (ART) and 90 percent of those receiving ART will have viral suppression.

Grand Challenges such as the reTHINK HIV Grand Challenge are foundational building blocks towards the achieving India’s stated aim of ensuring eliminating AIDS by 2030 in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Also Read : Indians Make up Over 90% HIV-Infected Kids & Teens in South Asia

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