Hundreds of young Nigerians crowdsource ideas to improve HIV self-testing

23 June 2020

Peer distribution, youth branding and social media campaigns emerge as top ideas in crowdsourcing contest to improve HIV self-testing among young people.

Group of young people on a phone

One of the largest health-based crowdsourcing contests, which challenged Nigerian youth (10-24 years old) to come up with ideas to promote HIV self-testing to their age group, has seen peer-to-peer distribution, youth-orientated branding and celebrity-endorsed social media campaigns emerge as key themes.

The ‘4 Youth by Youth’ contest, which ran between October 2018 and June 2019, put out an open call for ideas from young Nigerians via Facebook, Instagram and other social media sites, and at events in secondary schools, universities and community centres.

Around 900 entries were received, around two thirds of which came from people aged 15-24. There was a rough split between male and female entrants.

Each idea was judged on a three-point scale for its desirability (whether it would appeal to young people), feasibility (how easy it would be to implement) and potential impact (whether it would increase self-testing among this age group). The top 30 finalists were invited to pitch their idea to a panel of judges, including young people, who selected three winners.

Peer-to-peer distribution emerged as a key theme in some of the strongest entries. Entrants indicated that supportive discussions between young peer educators, operating as ‘brand ambassadors’, could promote and increase awareness of HIV self-testing. It was also suggested that peer educators could train other young people to raise awareness of HIV self-testing, using a ‘train-the-trainer’ model.

Schools, churches and community centres were identified as good places for self-testing promotion to take place, as these locations already serve large numbers of young people.

Suggestions on how to make HIV self-testing kits more appealing included repackaging existing products with youth-friendly colours, taglines, designs and animations. Making the packaging smaller and more flexible for discretion was also proposed.

The need for testing kits to be low cost was emphasised, with suggested prices ranging from 500–1000 naira (US$1.38-$2.78). Providing instructions in Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba – the most common languages in Nigeria – was also proposed as a way to reach a wider range of young people.

Offering grooming kits for men and sanitary pads for females alongside the kits to enhance their appeal was also suggested.

Roughly 10% of entries focused on using social media to reach young people.

Ideas included using local taglines and hashtags to create social media campaigns targeted at youth. Other entrants suggested asking local celebrities to endorse social media campaigns to generate demand among their young fans.

Using a crowdsourcing contest in this way resulted in young Nigerians becoming meaningfully engaged on the issue of self-testing, including a large number of young men. Because the majority of entrants took part via social media, the ideas put forward may be more likely to appeal to this subsection of young people and might not be as relevant to young people who do not have internet access. This might include marginalised young people who are at higher risk of HIV, who could particularly stand to benefit from HIV self-testing.

The study’s authors said: “Engaging young people to identify solutions on how to promote HIV self-testing [HIVST] is important in developing HIVST campaigns...that will resonate with young people."

“Tapping into the rich wisdom of crowds may lay the groundwork for illuminating youth perspectives on HIVST that could potentially increase HIV testing among Nigerian youth.”

Written by Hester Phillips