STAR – Leading the Way for the HIV G.E.T Tested Research Team

Could self-testing improve uptake of HIV testing in the Philippines? Could gaming support uptake and use of self-testing in Africa? Members of the HIV G.E.T Tested Project and the Self-Testing Africa (STAR) have had the fortunate opportunity to explore this exact question during the 5th Qualitative Reseach Network (QRN) meeting in Liverpool, Feb 2017.

The two research groups are exploring HIV testing and counselling in two very different contexts; however, both share the same goal of increasing the number of people within the at-risk populations knowing their HIV status. This shared vision means there is much we can learn from one another.

Self-testing in the Philippines

During the formative research stage of the HIV G.E.T Tested Project, members of the MSM and transgender (TG) population demonstrated a clear desire for discreet and convenient testing services, wherein a self-testing model could be ideal. While self-testing kits are available for purchase online in the Philippines, there is currently no research exploring the best distribution model for efficient uptake and linkage to care.

A Game Changer for HIV Self-testing

So what place does gaming have in HIV self-test distribution models? Short answer, we have no idea. We are yet to explore the potential of gamification to address challenges in self-testing. Qualitative and quantitative data presented during the QRN meeting has ignited ideas. Where do the barriers to self-testing lie, how do we reveal and explore these barriers and what challenges could our game currently under development begin to address?

What has always been clear is our game must be responsive to the ever-changing demand and architecture of health services in the Philippines. It must both support and aim to enhance methods in increasing knowledge of HIV status among key populations.