On November 25, 2022, the closing event of the project "Behavioral Insights for Low Uptake of HIV Testing in Georgia" was held at the Embassy of the Czech Republic in Tbilisi. At the event, the parties involved in the project presented the guests to the results of the Randomized Controlled Trial conducted within the initiative and shared the experience gained.
The event was a part of a joint innovative project of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Georgia Country Office and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), within the framework of which researchers used behavioral science to study the main factors causing the low uptake of HIV testing and tested it among young people aged 18-34.
Caucasus Research Resource Center (CRRC), together with the Information Medical-Psychological Center "Tanadgoma" and Caritas Czech Republic, developed and later distributed messages that helped target groups to decide on HIV self-testing. The research has shown that an expensive cell phone raffle and brief information about testing opportunities turned out to be the most encouraging for youth to engage in self-testing.
At the event, welcome speeches were delivered by Jana Zelingerova – Head of the Development Cooperation of the Embassy of the Czech Republic in Tbilisi, Pavel Faus – Senior Project Specialist of the Czech-UNDP Partnership for Sustainable Development Goals, Anna Chernyshova – Deputy Permanent Representative of the United Nations Development Program and Ekaterine Meskhrikadze – Deputy Head of Mission of Caritas Czech Republic.
“This event has been a great opportunity for people involved in public health to discover and discuss the potential or opportunity for health improvement that the HIV self-testing presents. While the event only lasted few hours, the efforts of people working on this project lasted for over a year. The final results show that self-testing can be promoted to target groups in relatively straight-forward way and it brings results. As the Czech-UNDP Partnership, we have been very happy to support this project which managed to bring together an array of partners and we look forward to seeing how the findings presented today will impact the future of HIV testing in Georgia.” – said Pavel Faus, Senior Project Specialist of the GoalsCzech-UNDP Partnership for Sustainable Development Goals.
Even though the prevalence remains low in the general population and there is a decreasing trend of new HIV diagnoses, evidence of high rates of recent HIV transmission in the MSM population and younger people indicates ongoing transmission and risk of potential worsening in key populations and their sexual partners. Epidemiological data showing an increase in heterosexual transmission among the male population indicates high level of stigma and non-willingness to disclose transmission mode.
To address this problem, Caritas Czech Republic together with the UNFPA Georgia Country Office, UNDP Georgia, Caucasus Research Resource Center (CRRC) and Information Medical-Psychological Center “Tanadgoma” got involved in a joint innovative project. Within the frames of the initiative, behaviorally informed message boxes were developed and tested for effectiveness in motivating youth to conduct HIV self-testing. Based on the research results, the most effective communication messages were selected for developing further campaigns and presented to the National Center for Disease Control and Public Health (NCDC), the Center for Infectious Diseases and AIDS, and HIV researchers. Last, but not least, the initiative also worked to train selected medical staff to provide young people with confidential and trusted medical advice, free of any stigma.
The project “Behavioral Insights for Low Uptake of HIV Testing in Georgia” was implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) through the Challenge Fund, with the financial support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic.