Data privacy and lack of personal contact are among the major barriers to uptake of people living with HIV in Asia

While uptake of telehealth services is increasing among people living with HIV and at-risk individuals in the Asia-Pacific region, concerns about data privacy and lack of in-person support still prevent most from fully engaging in online sexual health services, according to A recent survey report powered by the global biopharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences.

the findings

Conducted by Cerner Enviza from June to September this year, the survey collected responses from nearly 1,500 respondents (787 HIV-positive and 744 at-risk individuals) across nine markets in the Asia-Pacific region, including Hong Kong, India, Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore. South Korea and Taiwan. Thailand and Vietnam.

This report came on the heels of another supported by Gilead A study in 2020 found that more than half of HIV-positive and 64% of at-risk individuals in the Asia Pacific region do not have access to telehealth services.

The current survey found that more than half of HIV-positive and at-risk individuals in the region have now increased their uptake of telehealth services over the past year, mainly from the Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia.

According to the report, this rise in telehealth use is due to the widespread availability of new online sexual health services during the pandemic. Respondents said convenience, flexibility, and improved access to additional HIV information were the top three reasons for choosing telehealth services.

Despite its increased use, nearly half of all HIV-positive and one-third of at-risk individuals surveyed still raise significant concerns about data privacy in telehealth. Nearly half of at-risk individuals said they feel uncomfortable about the lack of in-person support when using telehealth services.

However, one in three respondents trust online services provided by healthcare providers and local HIV community groups more than other HIV care services.

why does it matter

Due to the growing adoption of virtual healthcare services, telehealth providers now have the opportunity to tailor their services to truly meet patients’ needs, said Dr. Julian Ng, executive vice president of DTAP Clinic, a chain of sexual health clinics based in Singapore.

“If telehealth use is going to remain high after the COVID-19 crisis, we need to ensure equality of access,” added Carolyn Choi, senior director of medical affairs, Asia 5 at Gilead Sciences.

“Not only [healthcare providers] Community organizations need to implement innovative forms of care, such as providing electronic prescriptions, but healthcare systems must also adapt to patients’ needs when updating HIV services.”

The biggest trend

The general concern about data privacy when it comes to telehealth may be attributed to the recent rise in internet incidents in healthcare. There was a case where there was confidential information for about 14,200 HIV positive people and 2,400 contacts in Singapore. It was leaked online.

In other related news, Kenya’s first online pharmacy MYDAWA begins a new telehealth service for those seeking pre-exposure prophylaxis, a medication taken by people at high risk of contracting HIV.

On the record

“The pandemic has ushered in confidence for the public to be an active participant in managing their health. In the context of HIV, telehealth services endorsed and approved by the relevant authorities may provide additional support to existing services to keep people living with HIV in care,” commented Sumita Banerjee. , Executive Director of AIDS Action Singapore, on the latest survey report.

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