Entertainment and services go hand in hand. Lighthouse in Hanoi knows how to attract a young crowd and give them a good time along with relevant information and services concerning sexual health and HIV prevention and testing.
During the Pride month of 2017, we from the Lighthouse organisation in Vietnam organised an ‘Out and Proud’ event in Hanoi that about 250 people attended. We created a safe space where members of the LGBT community could meet each other, work on reducing self-stigma and inspire each other. The event’s programme included dance performances, games, information sessions about sexual health, and HIV testing. The event was supported by COC Netherlands and the Global Forum on MSM & HIV (MSMGF).
We educated the community about safe-sex by talking about condom use and HIV testing. We set up a private and confidential testing area but also had videos and posters with information about HIV and LGBT-friendly healthcare facilities. We also promoted Lighthouse’s own legal-support hotline. A total of 23 people were tested for HIV, three of whom turned out to be HIV positive. We referred them to a clinic a confirmatory test and treatment. We also promoted the counselling and testing service we offer through our hotline and social network. One day after the event we received 18 requests for appointments for counselling at our office.
We also made a video, “Come Out”, in which three men told personal stories about their own coming out. https://www.facebook.com/Gtown123/videos/1506851096005080/ The stories are difficult, but they are full of pride and they encourage other LGBT people to be not only more confident but also more concerned about their health. The video has had 5.7k views so far.
Our online platform has grown to 1000 followers, providing a useful way of engaging with the community. We also connected with other Vietnamese LGBT platforms such as Gay 18+ confession, HN Queer, Gay movie, Love boy Hanoi LGBT Vietnam and LGBT Hanoi.
Overall, the level of confidence and the feeling of pride increased within the community both during and after the event. We succeeded in creating a safe space where people could meet and connect and feel proud about their community. We educated the LGBT community about sexual health and we even tested people for HIV.
Story of change #62. This Story of change is an illustration of the Bridging the Gaps program.