On November 27, 2018, UNESCO IITE and UNAIDS regional office for Eastern Europe and Central Asia (EECA) together with OK.RU social media launched a new online project – a series of talk shows with experts and celebrities titled Frankly Speaking to facilitate an open and honest public discussion about HIV. Thirty years after the first case of HIV-infection was registered in the Soviet Union, different myths and outdated concepts are still widely spread and hinder effective HIV prevention, treatment and care. According to UNAIDS, about 130,000 people were newly diagnosed with HIV in Eastern Europe and Central Asia last year with about 80% of the new cases arising in Russia. Yet only 36% of those who need treatment have access to antiretroviral therapy.*
The first episode of the new talk show focused on the role of movies and role models in public awareness raising about HIV. This theme was suggested by the recent release of a new Russian series Call DiCaprio where the main character gets HIV and then struggles to overcome despair, isolation and rejection.
Vinay Saldanha, Director of UNAIDS regional office for EECA, Tigran Yepoyan, UNESCO regional HIV and health education advisor, together with a popular Russian actress Irina Starshenbaum, film critic Egor Belikov, scriptwriter Evgenia Khripkova and other guests discussed how HIV and people living with HIV were portrayed in movies years ago and are presented today, how the movie plots and characters influence public perception of HIV and attitude towards people living with HIV.
Over 1.9 million people watched this talk show and got an opportunity to dissipate their misconceptions and learn real facts about HIV transmission, prevention, testing (including self-testing) and treatment. They were encouraged to check their knowledge of HIV through an online game-quiz #learnyourstatus developed by UNESCO IITE.
Designed as a short game, the quiz offers multiple choices in each of six different life situations than anyone can get into: learning about an HIV-positive classmate; being caught in a storm of passion but having no condoms; learning that daughter’s fiancé did drugs in the past; meeting an old friend who confesses to be HIV-positive; planning to have children and being asked by a doctor about HIV-status; dreaming to buy a new suit/dress and learning that it has just been tried on by an HIV-positive person. Depending on selected reactions, the quiz provides correct information about HIV transmission and risks factors. In the end, the quiz tells where and how HIV test can be taken and in which cases it is highly desirable. The quiz complements and reinforces the talk-show in raising HIV awareness, promoting HIV testing and overcoming stigmatizing and discriminatory attitude towards people living with HIV.
As a result of this livestreamed talk show, the number of subscribers of the newly rebranded public OK.RU\TEST (developed and maintained by UNESCO and UNAIDS) has grown by 6% just within two days and reached 63.5 thousand people. OK.RU\TEST serves as an HIV knowledge dissemination platform for Eastern Europe and Central Asia. More livestreamed talk shows will be organized at the platform in 2019.
* Fact Sheet – World AIDS Day 2018, UNAIDS, 2018.