The LGBT Foundation is putting HIV Self Tests on the blockchain. Perhaps obviously, HIV testing is identified as the first step in ending HIV. In 2019, the HIV pandemic continues to grow, currently 37 million people are living with HIV and each year an addition 2 million people become infected, so the pandemic is growing and by 2025 40+ million will be living with HIV. One in three new cases occur in young people aged 15 to 24. Among those living with or at risk of HIV, marginalized populations and young people are often least likely to obtain life-saving prevention and treatment services–this is what our program looks to address.
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.
Now live and powered by the LGBT Token; HIV self tests are 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 healthcare in a way that can transform HIV testing.
Globally 20% of people living with HIV do not know their status. Access to an HIV test is one of the reasons that number is so high. Self tests make it easier for people to get a test and know their status, particularly key populations that often face significant barriers when attempting to access healthcare. 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 transform the testing process. In the case of Hornet, they can reach their 25 million users and research already shows this is 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 the test in the privacy of your own home helps to address these issues.
The at-home pregnancy test is a great comparison. When the 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 your hands and it can be accomplished using your hand held 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 our launch allows Hornet users to purchase the highest quality HIV test available, the Insti Self Test. This first program, in itself, creates a self-sustaining model. As we monitor this, we are working in several countries to launch innovative ways to scale self-tests that are compatible with national health systems. For example, in Thailand we are partnering with Love Foundation to reduce costs, utilize vouchers for “free” and reduced cost tests for key consumers. In other parts of Asia and Eastern Europe, we are looking at both global funders to subsidize prices as well as government supported reimbursement 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 a 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 and men’s sexual health needs will be met.
In addition to growing populations of people living with HIV, global funds for prevention and treatment of HIV are decreasing despite rising demands. We must look at ways of decreasing costs and reaching the most in need. Setting up healthcare in a highly scalable way can improve efficiency. In Public Health, and particularly the global HIV response, a significant number of processes are still performed manually, which leads to intense resource consumption.
Blockchain technology even has the potential to break down existing economic structures and create the prerequisites for decentralized business models.
Putting supply chains on the blockchain improve transparency and efficiency of the supply chain. This also creates mutually beneficial outcomes and competitive advantages for both sides of public health, donors and care providers as well as patients.
When you place the HIV tests on blockchain, it makes the entire process transparent and traceable. As the entire ecosystem brings manufacturers, wholesalers, clinics, NGOs, retailers, shopkeepers, warehouse and together, consumers can be assured of availing end-to-end traceability. Currently, we are seeing the popularity of HIV tests grow online and with any new business fraudsters seize opportunities and even on consumer platforms like Alibaba fake HIV tests have been reported.
This shared ledger technology could prove to be highly beneficial to final distributors, be they NGOs or even direct to the manufacturer, who are only paid a meager amount by middlemen. As blockchain technology prevents price coercion and eliminates intermediaries in the chain, we can reap significant economic benefits.
HIV and a variety of social elements of key populations are still criminalized. Creating opportunities to participate in ongoing research while maintaining the security and even the ownership of the information in the hands of the patient is made more possible with blockchain.
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 demonstrate a key commitment to the health and wellness of gay and bisexual men. The LGBT Foundation is thrilled to launch this blockchain4good program with Hornet.
The LGBT Foundation is a not-for-profit organization with the mission to maintain the LGBT Token and utilize blockchain technology to achieve equal rights and acceptance for all members of the LGBT+ community worldwide.