The Telegram self-testing app
- Organisation: Alliance for Public Health
- Country: Ukraine
- Region: Eastern Europe and Central Asia
- Stage of innovation: Stage 3: Pilot
- Start date: 2020
- End date: 2020
- Type of innovation: Service innovation: new or improved service
- Budget: US$1,500
- Funded by: Global Fund
Summary of intervention
In Ukraine, COVID-19 restrictions have affected people’s ability to visit NGOs for HIV testing.
In April 2020, APH conducted an online survey to assess the willingness of people to use HIV self-testing and online services. In May 2020 the development of a self-testing app began, and in June the Telegram bot for self-testing was launched in Odesa and Lviv districts.
The chat-bot provides friendly, unobtrusive text and video instructions on how to take an HIV self-test. People order the test online or by phone then receive it in a convenient place, near the office of the NGO that supports them or at the post office.
The bot’s responses were designed based on the survey findings and in consultation with partner organisations. It is accessible, concise and engaging and ‘speaks’ Ukrainian, English and Russian. NGO’s clients can also use the service to support their partners or friends to test. The service was promoted on social media, websites and mobile apps.
As this is a pilot project it is too early to show the full effectiveness, but initial results are good – many people have enthusiastically accepted the innovation and given positive feedback on it.
- In one region, social workers had good social media skills and were comfortable using the bot and they got a lot of people using the self-testing service. But in another, social workers struggled despite the training. This influenced the number of clients who engaged with the pilot.
- Before implementing a pilot, it is important to get input into design and delivery from people who may use the service and those who will implement it.
APH has received interest from other regions about the pilot, so further rollout is being explored. If the pilot is successful, there are plans to use this innovation in all HIV prevention projects that work with marginalised communities. APH will analyse the pilot’s results and present them to wider stakeholders to take their views into account for future development.
The app continues to be popular despite COVID-19 restrictions easing because people are increasingly using online resources. If the project shows good results, it will be submitted to the Ukrainian Government for consideration as a prevention component that has both programmatic and financial benefits.