BACKGROUND: Despite free and differentiated HIV testing options, the Ukraine-Russian war has led to low testing uptake by key and priority populations (KPs) due to physical destruction or damage to medical facilities, evacuation of medical personnel, displacement of people within the country, and prioritization of immediate physical and humanitarian consequences of war over other health needs. To improve and sustain HIV case finding in the context of war, it is important to deploy innovative health communication and promotion strategies, especially in regions with limited access to healthcare services.
DESCRIPTION: Funded by PEPFAR and implemented by PACT, FHI360, AFEW, and local NGOs, the Community Action for HIV Control implemented targeted online advertising campaigns for HIV self-testing kits from March to July 2023. Led by NGOs and targeted to KPs, the campaign included online advertising, enhanced digital communication strategies and intensive client engagement. The program utilized various platforms associated with KPs interest and use (Facebook, Instagram, Telegram, Google Search, Google display network, YouTube) and several types of publications and visual messages on those platforms targeted toward specific populations were trialed. Eighteen million displays were achieved, and about a thousand orders for HIV self-test kits were made. The click-through rate (CTR) was 4.33% for Meta, 4.84% for Google Search, and 1.11% for Google Display Network. Cost per click (CPC) – $0.12
LESSONS LEARNED: The war introduced atypical challenges, including disrupted access and shifted priorities, to already vulnerable and difficult to reach populations. The targeted online communication campaign increasing HIV testing awareness and HIVST, showing the resilience and effectiveness of digital platforms. Specific outcomes, such as high CTR and modest CPC, demonstrated the success in reaching KPs and enhancing NGOs' online presence using limited financial resources.
CONCLUSIONS: The program's success amidst the war underscores the pivotal role of digital health initiatives. Future strategies should focus on expanding targeted digital approaches to promote HIV services, ensuring continuous support and accessibility even in unstable conditions. HIVST offers options for HIV testing in volatile context and for KPs in remote areas with limited testing availability at health facilities or NGO outreach. Online engagement and promotion of HIVST can sustain this case finding strategy.