Name of the activity: Getting Tested Campaign

Country/NMO: Malta (MMSA)

Program: HIV/AIDS & Other STIs

 

Contact information: [email protected]

Type of the activity: Campaign

 

General description:

The Getting Tested campaign has the sole aim of reaching the UNAIDS 90-90-90 goal, with specific attention to the first 90. Knowing the worrying situation in Malta provided sufficient motivation to take on this challenge. We aimed to target university students, the younger Maltese population, the MSM population as well as the general public. We assessed the success of our campaign through the outreach we achieved through social media and the like. As mentioned beforehand, we created two videos which were shared on our social media; one describing the HIV Rapid Test and another consisting of influential Maltese personalities voicing their stand against HIV through the statement ‘I got tested for HIV; how about you?’. Other methodology includes posters and flyers, as well as demonstrations of the HIV autotest to the general public.

Focus area:

STI testing

Problem statement:

In Malta, there is a huge problem with the stigma surrounding getting tested for HIV among the general population, especially in older age groups. We have encountered a lack of education about what the test is, how it is carried out and the benefits of knowing your HIV status. We realised that this reluctancy to get tested must be overcome in order to prevent the incidence of HIV cases in Malta from increasing further. The incidence of HIV cases has doubled in recent years (the period of time between 2012 and 2016). Moreover, Malta’s incidence of new HIV cases amongst people over 50 is amongst the highest in Europe, where more than 6 new HIV cases were being diagnosed per 100,000 people in that age category. Since the Rapid HIV Test was introduced very recently, we felt that it was our duty to inform the public and raise awareness about the test and all of its advantages, thereby decreasing the reluctancy to get tested. This striving to have more people getting tested is in line with Malta’s efforts to reach the 90-90-90 goal set by UNAIDS.

Target groups and beneficiaries:

We believe that our target group should not be limited to specific populations, but should extend to anyone who is sexually active. Nonetheless, we kept the following populations in mind during the planning and execution of our campaign.

University students (Knowing the promiscuity of today’s younger population, we felt it was essential to raise the necessary awareness and educate our university student populus through the methods described. This would aid in allowing the next generation of graduates to be well-informed on the topic and move forward towards sufficient education about the topic).
Younger Maltese population (targeted through social media since its use is commonplace)
General public, especially the older 50 age group (education is especially lacking amongst the older Maltese population; which has in fact led to an increase in HIV cases in this age group)
MSM population

University students were one of our main target groups. Knowing the promiscuity of today’s younger population, we felt it was essential to raise the necessary awareness and educate our university student populus through the methods described. This would aid in allowing the next generation of graduates to be well-informed on the topic and move forward towards sufficient education about the topic.

Besides university students specifically, we wanted to target the young Maltese population. We planned to reach out to this group through social media mainly, since social media use is commonplace.

Another target group was the general public, with special emphasis upon those over 50 years of age. Education is especially lacking amongst the older Maltese population; a fact which can be attributed to the conservative and traditional mentality many older Maltese uphold.

Objectives and indicators of success:

Specific
To publish a video with clear instructions of what the HIV Rapid Test involves putting emphasis upon its simplicity and the other benefits (test results within 20 minutes, only a drop of blood required etc.).
To publish a video with the aim of reducing stigma around getting tested by having various Maltese influential personalities and executive members of student associations getting tested, and saying they have done so on video
To make the public aware of the existence of an HIV autotest kit that could be purchased from pharmacies and used in the comfort of one’s home
To educate the public via distribution of flyers and posters with concise information about the HIV Rapid Test

All of this enables Maltese citizen to be more aware of the facilities available, make it easier for them to get tested so as to help detect more HIV cases, and detect them earlier.

Measurable:
The number of viewers (goal set was of 3000 views on each video) reached on social media platforms on both of our videos.
The number of people (goal set was of 40 people) who get tested at the GU clinic during the months of November and December
The number of flyers (goal set was of 1000) that were distributed on three major events that comprised of events on our university campus, and also our capital city.

Achievable:
The above aims are ambitious but not impossible to complete. We had two available platforms to achieve these aims. Firstly there was our social media outreach, which comprises over 5000 followers on Facebook. The other platform was the events that were organised over three days where we could display our videos and distribute flyers and posters.

Relevant:
SCORA’s vision is to live in a world in which every individual is empowered to exercise their sexual and reproductive health rights equally, free from stigma and discrimination. The aim of our campaign was precisely to reduce the stigma that surrounds getting tested, so more people know their HIV status and live freely without discrimination from others.
Other than that The Getting Tested Campaign is also in line with the 90-90-90 goals set by UNAIDS. In Malta, 98.6% of those diagnosed with HIV are on treatment, and 78% of them who are virally suppressed. However the problem lies with the first ‘90’ as only 75% of people living with HIV in Malta know their status, hence making our campaign relevant even on an international level.

Time:
During the brainstorming of these aims, we had two time frames in mind. The first is the European Getting Tested Week (17th – 24th November) during which we would create our methodology; involving Maltese celebrities getting tested and the filming of their statements.
The second time frame was between the 29th November and the 8th December; during which we would release our videos on social media as well as organise our main events. The impact was mainly assessed during the second week.

Methodology:

At the beginning of the new term, in July, Matteo Azzopardi, was appointed to be in charge of the whole World AIDS Day campaign (WAD Coordinator). One of his tasks was to organize the Getting Tested Campaign along with the Sexual and Reproductive Health Officer (SHRO), Jessica Barbara and SHRO secretary, Jacques Galea Souchet.

Negotiations were started immediately with the GU Clinic so as to secure a number of dates and times during which people could get tested throughout European HIV Testing Week from the 17th to the 24th of November.

The next challenge was to obtain permission from the Mater Dei Hospital administration to film inside the hospital. With the GU Clinic backing us up and the relevance of the filming, we got the permission necessary so that the filming could start.

After obtaining these permissions, all three coordinators of the activity, got in touch with several people encouraging them to get tested and form part of our video. The people who were contacted range from popular radio presenters, singers to the most well-known faces around university from over 10 different student organisations on campus. After coordinating the dates in which they would be available to do the testing, we liaised once again with the GU Clinic, to confirm date & times, and staff resources available.
A media team was set up which consisted of a videographer and a video editor. The videographer was present on all days throughout the week during which the testing was held. The editor’s work to compile all of the videos and make them as informative as possible before the launch of the videos.

During the week of the testing, most members of our team would be present at the GU Clinic to make sure everything runs smoothly and that the participants felt at ease.

On a separate note, a small working group (SWG) of 6 NMO members was set up where they were trained by one of the nurses about how to use an HIV auto test kit at home. The aim of this SWG was to equip members with the necessary information and skills to educate the public and demonstrate how to use the test on the 8th of December, during our event in the capital city, an event which was targeted towards the general public. In order to aid our members, over 50 HIV autotest samples were obtained and leaflets which showed step by step clear instructions on how to use the test were distributed. We were also made aware than anyone who gets a positive result on the HIV autotest at home, can skip the queue at the GU Clinic, and this was communicated to the public.

Finally, we made sure that our efforts got the media recognition that they deserved. The HIV Rapid Test video was shown on a popular television station during primetime TV where viewers typically reach the thousands. An article was also published on a local newspaper in our native language, Maltese, aimed towards the older generation who make use of Maltese newspapers as their main source of information rather than social media.

Plans for evaluation:

In order to assess our social media outreach, we made use of the Facebook analytics tools to measure the number of views achieved, as well as other factors such as the number of shares, likes and views.

We were in close collaboration with the GU Clinic and they were kind enough to provide numbers of how many people got tested through the newly-introduced HIV Rapid Test. Since the test was only introduced in November in Malta, unfortunately we did not have a control number of those tested prior to our campaign.

Prior to our events, we made a stock count of the number of flyers we had available, so as to then evaluate how many flyers we managed to distribute during the events.

In a holistic approach to evaluation, we asked the experts we collaborated with to provide us with feedback about our events and how we could improve in future campaigns. Moreover we asked MMSA members to give us their feedback on how prepared they now felt to advocate for HIV testing and sexual health.