NEWSROOM December 1, 2015

APCOM and the Elton John AIDS Foundation announce a major new partnership on World AIDS Day

APCOM’s landmark community-led HIV MSM testing campaign to be expanded from Thailand to Indonesia, Philippines and Viet Nam.

On this World AIDS Day, at a time when HIV continues to rise alarmingly among men who have sex with men in Asia and the Pacific, APCOM (Asia Pacific Coalition on Male Sexual Health) is proud to announce a significant new partnership with the UK-based Elton John AIDS Foundation (EJAF) to address this crisis in several key cities across our region.

The partnership, initially envisaged for the next three years, is made possible by an EJAF grant of £795,195 to expand APCOM’s widely-acclaimed regional city-based HIV testing campaign from the pilot city, Bangkok, Thailand and expand to other cities in Indonesia, the Philippines and Viet Nam.

“Our campaign in Bangkok known as TestBKK with its memorable tag-line of SUCK. F#*K. TEST. REPEAT. has targeted young gay men in an innovative, community-friendly way to encourage them to get tested regularly to know their HIV status now and in the future,” explained Midnight Poonkasetwattana, Executive Director of APCOM.  “We use edgy videos disseminated online and via social media platforms to reach as wide a target audience as possible.  The content, while fun and even risqué’, speaks directly to the reality that young gay men face in negotiating condom use and adhering to safer sex practices.  It’s a serious message intended to safeguard our communities’ health and well-being, and even save lives.”

It is estimated that by 2020, MSM will constitute up to 50 percent of new HIV infections in Asia-Pacific. The statistics are already frightening. National HIV prevalence in China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand and Viet Nam is currently estimated to be more than 5 percent, with dramatically higher prevalence of between 15 to 25 percent in key urban centres such as Bangkok, Hanoi and Jakarta. In the Philippines, the HIV epidemic is primarily escalating in MSM, and especially young MSM, in Manila and other cities.

“Even with less than optimal surveillance and data gathering among MSM and other vulnerable populations in most countries and cities, it’s obvious that this is a genuine crisis to which national responses unfortunately remain largely inadequate”, said Anne Aslett, Executive Director of the Elton John AIDS Foundation.  “Many campaigns for HIV testing, tend to use messages underpinned by fear and doom and gloom, and are not targeted at populations most at risk.  APCOM’s initiative, by contrast, is candid, direct and empowering – accentuating self-respect and dignity coupled with light-heartedness and fun.

Sir Elton John, the charity’s founder, agrees: “We’re pleased to support the expansion of APCOM’s efforts.  We will only end AIDS if no one gets left behind in accessing information, prevention and treatment.  We look forward to evaluating the campaign’s impact and success in these important cities over the next three years.”

Sir Elton John, the charity’s founder, agrees: “We’re pleased to support the expansion of APCOM’s efforts.  We will only end AIDS if no one gets left behind in accessing information, prevention and treatment.  We look forward to evaluating the campaign’s impact and success in these important cities over the next three years.”

Besides the videos, the campaign provides a comprehensive web-based resource with practical information about gay and MSM-friendly services on HIV testing, as well as much-needed prevention information including Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) and the importance of consistent and correct use of condoms and water or silicone-based lubricants.

“More than 30 years into the global epidemic we’ve now got truly exciting biomedical prevention and treatment strategies, but access to these services remains a challenge for many,” noted Poonkasetwattana.  “Our campaign accentuates that prevention remains the best option, with HIV testing essential to help keep people negative on one hand, and help keep people who are positive healthy and strong on the other hand.  We thank EJAF for the opportunity to do this, and pledge to do all we can to fulfill their trust in us as we forge this partnership now, and in the future.”


The APCOM TestBKK Campaign “SUCK. F#*K. TEST. REPEAT.” TestBKK is also supported by USAID LINKAGES Project managed by FHI 360. Campaign videos produced so far can be accessed at: www.TestBKK.org