One of the most critical tools we have in the fight against HIV is the HIV test. Knowing your status is the first step in responding to HIV and maintaining one’s health. Yet people all around the world still don’t have access to a basic and modern HIV test. The HIV self-test is an incredible advancement that allows people to put testing into their own hands. The LGBT Token has put HIV self-tests on the blockchain. An HIV self-test is available online and accessible directly through the Hornet app; with a few clicks some of the most at-risk populations all over the world have agency and access to testing. This marries technology and health care in a way that can transform HIV testing.
Gay and bisexual men are disproportionately impacted by HIV, and if they can access a self-test through a social networking app they use every day then we could simplify the testing process. Engaging online communities means reaching hard-to-reach populations. Leveraging a platform popular among young MSM can be a powerful tool to reach key populations. Deciding to get tested is a complex process, and many barriers exist that can prevent one from getting tested. Stigma and fear are two significant issues when it comes to testing. Being able to administer an HIV self-test in the privacy of your own home helps to address these issues. The at-home pregnancy test is a great comparison. When that test became available it radically changed women’s reproductive health. Women, on their own, were able to gain important information about their health and determine the best path forward. The self-test is about getting that test into an individual’s hands, and it can be accomplished using a handheld device. Cost is always an issue when it comes to health care. Unfortunately HIV self-test kits do have a cost, but there are creative ways to solve that problem so that cost is no longer a barrier to getting tested. Many NGOs already provide vouchers that allow people to order a test online or go to their local pharmacy and pick one up for free. Similar techniques can be utilized with the LGBT token so that one can use the wallet in the app to order a self-test kit at no cost. The first stage of this launch allows Hornet users to purchase the highest quality HIV test available, the Insti Self Test. This progress will be monitored to develop the best approach to launch innovative ways to scale self-tests that are compatible with various national health systems. For example, in Thailand a partnership with Love Foundation reduces costs by utilizing “free” vouchers. In other parts of Asia and Eastern Europe, other options are being explored for global funders to subsidize prices or for government-supported reimbursements for those that complete and participate in post-test surveys.
There are other models that could work as well. The Tom’s Shoes “One for One” strategy could easily be applied when one purchases an HIV self-test kit using the LGBT token. A free self-test kit could be distributed for each one purchased. This would allow greater community participation in such an initiative. It would send a strong message about the importance of testing and how gay and bisexual men want to support one another in their testing efforts. This approach of utilizing the LGBT token to respond to the sexual health needs of gay and bisexual men could also apply to various prevention tools. Condoms and lube are still difficult to come by in many parts of the world, and sex-related stigma can often prevent people from picking up condoms. Using tokens to acquire condoms and lube put them directly into the hands of those who would benefit from them the most. There is a growing online industry for mail order PrEP, the HIV prevention pill. The ideal model would be that one could access an HIV self-test online via the LGBT token and then later access PrEP, if needed, in the same way. All of this could be done quickly, easily and privately in an effort to meet men’s sexual health needs. HIV tests are vital, and we must do all that we can to ensure that gay and bisexual men have access to the test. Utilizing blockchain technology and the LGBT token is an innovative approach to the various barriers that people encounter around testing. It’s a creative and community-driven strategy that demonstrates a key commitment to the health and wellness of gay and bisexual men.