Nurses at the University of Malaya Medical Center’s HIV clinic
In January 2013, TemanTeman.org launched its website and social media campaign using celebrities and edutainment to promote HIV awareness in Indonesia. The site features hundreds of videos in which Indonesian celebrity ambassadors and healthcare experts discuss HIV. In less than two years, it has garnered nearly 400,000 visitors, and the celebrity ambassadors have reached millions more by posting about HIV on their social media pages. TemanTeman has also reached individuals through public HIV awareness photo exhibitions and mobile HIV testing events. They plan to repeat this success with TemanTeman.org Malaysia, making its debut this October.
”Teman-teman” means “friends” in both Malay and Bahasa Indonesia. Like Indonesia, Malaysia is an Islamic-majority country with an HIV epidemic concentrated among key populations, including people who inject drugs, men who have sex with men, transgender individuals, and female sex workers. “TemanTeman.org Indonesia has demonstrated the feasibility of engaging Indonesians in HIV awareness and is a step forward in reducing the stigma associated with HIV testing in a culturally sensitive setting,” says Tarandeep Anand, project director of TemanTeman.org. “It makes sense to use this communication technology campaign to increase HIV testing and linkage to treatment in Malaysia, which shares a similar cultural heritage and language with Indonesia.”
Both countries are also very wired. Indonesia has the fourth largest number of Facebook users of any country in the world, and Malaysia ranks second in the average number of hours individuals spend online in Southeast Asia, behind the Philippines. However, the internet has not previously been used to scale up HIV testing and awareness in Malaysia, where most at-risk individuals are not aware of their HIV status. The Malaysian Ministry of Health estimates that the HIV rate among key populations is 12% (though due to low rates of testing it could actually be much higher), and according to UNAIDS, while AIDS-related deaths have declined by nearly 40% in the Asia-Pacific region since 2005, they have increased by 20% in Malaysia.
A map of the TemanTeman.org and Adam’s Love HIV awareness network.
“Stigma stifles the dissemination of HIV information and access to care, increasing the vulnerability and marginalization of at-risk populations,” says Dominic Kemp, director of the Positive Action for Children Fund and Patient Advocacy at ViiV Healthcare, one of TemanTeman.org’s official sponsors. The project is also supported by Thai Red Cross AIDS Research Centre and TREAT Asia.
TemanTeman.org Malaysia will target the three main Malaysian ethnic groups—Malays, Chinese, and Indian Malaysians—by employing outreach strategies and celebrity ambassadors appealing to each group. In addition to members of key populations and their partners, the site will also target pregnant women and adolescents. Like TemanTeman.org Indonesia, 70% of the videos on the site will feature healthcare professionals and 30% celebrity ambassadors. All will discuss HIV risks and where and how to get HIV testing and care.
“TemanTeman.org draws people in with its innovative use of fashion and design, then uses digital technologies to provide a safe space for people to learn more about HIV risks and where to access care in a safe and supportive environment,” says Kemp. In Malaysia, TemanTeman.org is partnering with Dr. Adeeba Kamarulzaman at the University of Malaya Medical Center to generate expert content and referrals to care.
TemanTeman was modeled on a similar outreach initiative in Thailand called Adam’s Love, also supported by Thai Red Cross AIDS Research Centre, ViiV Healthcare, and TREAT Asia. They plan to establish similar campaigns in Taiwan by the end of 2015 and in South Korea after that.