In 2018 I was offered a unique opportunity to lead projects for IDEO.org out of their newest studio in Nairobi. The first project I took on was aimed at increasing the use of HIV self testing among young men in Kenya.
For two months our team spoke about dating, sex, HIV, and HIV testing with more than a hundred individuals across Kenya, in urban areas like Nairobi and Kisumu and in the more rural communities of Homa Bay County and Rusinga Island. Through this research we developed a new understanding of what it means to seek HIV care and testing as a young man in Kenya.
The social cost to HIV testing is extremely high for young men in Kenya. HIV is seen as a death sentence by many Kenyans and people describe losing their friends and family as a result of HIV stigma. Just walking near a testing center, people risk being ridiculed. Many young people decline to get tested due to this risk.
In Kisumu, Homa Bay and Rusinga Island, where more than 20% of the population is infected with HIV, taking an HIV test can be emotionally taxing. Many people we spoke with discussed the need for support before and after taking a test. Finding a balance between privacy and support for testers was a big part of our challenge.
We needed a solution that would give people safe cover to get tested without fear of social consequences. We repeatedly heard concerns about discrimination related to HIV –people were frustrated. Some couldn’t even get a test without damage to their reputation. So we created a few prototypes to explore an anti-discrimination value proposition. Our goal was to reframe the experience of taking an HIV self test, through the packaging design.
We created prototype packaging and a simple guidebook that taught about self testing, ARVs and PrEP. We took these prototypes out into the field to get feedback, and thats when people started asking to take home the guidebook –because they wanted to tell their friends. This was a breakthrough for our team.
Niko Nao is an ‘ambassador’ training program that teaches people about HIV self tests, ARVs and PrEP. Niko Nao enables people to become leaders in the fight against HIV, by taking a test, and teaching others.
The visual design we landed on for Niko Nao is purposefully bright and positive, featuring healthy and happy happy looking people. We created a new packaging design for the tests, including a place where an ambassador could write in their name and phone number, in case the tester needs some kind of emotional or technical support with the test.
We tested the program concept in a Live Prototype –a short pilot in a real world setting. We printed our new packaging, ambassador training guides, posters and a bunch of coupons. Then we got a couple hundred HIV tests and repackaged them.
We trained four Niko Nao Ambassadors in Mathare and also partnered with two local pharmacies that agreed to distribute tests for us. Over a three week period Ambassadors taught their friends about HIV self tests, PrEP, ARVs, and distributed coupons that could be redeemed for a free HIV self test.
This is Alice at her pharmacy in Mathare.
We created a Facebook page featuring educational content about HIV self tests, ARVs and PrEP and ran content ads targeting ‘high risk’ individuals in Mathare, Nairobi through a combination of geo-targeting and audience data.
We pitched Niko Nao at the CIFF / EJAF Challenge Fund competition in October 2018 and we won! In 2019 IDEO.org will start the next phase of work to launch the Niko Nao Ambassador program in East Africa.