Sunday, June 11, 2017

Let’s TestMNL! - LoveYourself and TestMNL join forces against HIV

By Mark Angello Ganon


Let’s TESTMNL! is LoveYourself and TestMNL’s fast, easy and anonymous HIV testing event held on May 28, 2017 at Victoria Court in Malate, Manila. The whole-day venture, which started at 10:00 AM, catered to a total of 333 clients until its cutoff at 7:00 PM.


INSPIRATION and BACKGROUND  

Embracing inspiration from the Elton John AIDS Foundation in creating an AIDS-free future, Let’s TESTMNL! created an avenue for individuals of all sexes to have themselves tested. The event was held in conjunction with LoveYourself’s goal to ward off stigma in HIV screening and testing. Eliminating the need to provide personal information was a key point in the large turnout of clients. And on top of the anonymity, accurate results were delivered within 15 minutes from the time of extraction.

Owing to the success of its predecessors, LoveYourself Incognito in May 2015 and LoveYourself Incognito 2.0 in the latter part of 2016, Let’s TestMNL!, broke past records when it catered to 333 clients. The first off-site testing, LoveYourself Incognito, was able to accommodate 310 clients, while LoveYourself Incognito 2.0 tested an estimated 230 clients. The impressive turnout of this year’s anonymous testing can be attributed to effective advertising on social media, with 40% of those who pre-registered coming from Facebook advertisements alone.
ON SITE and BEHIND THE SCENES

The event was organized with a flock of 114 volunteers. Program officers of TestMNL coordinated with LoveYourself in upholding the goal to provide strict confidentiality through a speedy screening procedure.


The Communications Committee harnessed the power of social media. Majority of the sign-ups came from links through Facebook, Twitter, Grindr, Hornet, and Instagram. Interviews and advertisements via radio (Jam 88.3) and television (Lionheart TV and CNN PH) also boosted registration.

The Logistics Committee took charge of the venue, promotional tools before and during the event, refreshments for the volunteers, and procurement of the materials needed. The Registration Committee, on the other hand, were ready for the influx of clients.

Upholding strict confidentiality, clients were not required to give any personal information. They were only given a UIC (Unique Identifier Code) and a client number, and then were assisted by the Traffic Committee. The HIV Quick Facts Team oriented the clients briefly on what the TestMNL campaign is all about and what processes they were to undergo.

Volunteers took turns in delivering HIV 101 in a fun and informative yet concise manner. Volunteer counselors conducted the Community-Based Screening using the 3rd-generation rapid immunochromatography kit to determine the presence of HIV antibodies in each client, and counseling was not compromised under the mentoring of the Head Counselors. In 15-20 minutes, results were read by the counselors to their respective clients. The results were then sent to the laboratory for verification.

The Laboratory Team served as the quality control arm in providing professionally verified results. For non-reactive results, the clients were referred to the Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) Committee for a quick survey to serve as a tool for improving future HIV testing events of the organization. For reactive results, blood extraction was done for Plasma Agglutination Test and baseline CD4 count. The reactive clients were referred to the Life Coach Team for guidance on the treatment process.


Smiles and thank you’s are the volunteers' payment for their tireless efforts geared toward HIV awareness and prevention. With the conclusion of Let’s TestMNL, the public is once again reminded of the importance of loving one’s self. Correct knowledge on HIV, its transmission and its prevention, safe sexual practices, and timely testing and treatment, collectively called the Triangle of Self-Care, are our weapons in our battle to create an HIV-free future. As TestMNL’s meaty and controversial catchphrase goes, let’s “SUCK. F*#K. TEST. REPEAT.”


Photos courtesy of L.A. Lomarda and Iosif Cade