Crowdsourced multimedia campaign to boost HIV testing in China

August 28, 2018

A crowdsourced intervention led to an increase in the number of gay men who got tested for HIV in eight cities in China, researchers led by Joseph Tucker from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, USA, report this week in PLOS Medicine.

Worldwide, an estimated 14 million people living with HIV have yet to be tested, limiting the effectiveness of HIV treatment programs. In China, HIV infection rates are increasing among men who have sex with men (MSM), and testing rates remain relatively low. In the new study, researchers developed an intervention consisting of a multimedia HIV testing campaign, an online HIV testing service, and local testing promotion campaigns. Each aspect of the intervention was developed using crowdsourcing, including contests for images, concepts, and messages. The team then recruited 1381 MSM in eight Chinese cities, using a social networking application, to a stepped wedge cluster-randomized trial, and tracked whether participants had been tested for HIV in the previous three months. Most participants were under the age of 30.

During the intervention period, there was an 8.9% absolute increase, and a 43% relative increase, in the number of gay men who reported getting tested for HIV relative to control periods. Overall, 62% of participants self-reported that they received HIV testing at least once during the study period. The intervention was particularly effective in promoting HIV self-testing, but there was no effect on facility-based testing or condom use, for example. The results are potentially limited in generalizability, as participants were only recruited online, and more research is needed in different ages, cultures, and locations.

"[Our study] suggests that crowdsourcing could be used to design tailored HIV services, providing direction for subsequent crowdsourcing research. Also, crowdsourcing provides an inclusive, effective way to solicit community input, hence it might be used to inform health policy," the authors say. "Finally, when planning HIV interventions for MSM, researchers and policymakers should consider social media interventions to expand dissemination."
Research Article

Peer-reviewed / Randomised Controlled Trial / People


This study received support from the National Key Research and Development Program of China (2017YFE0103800), the National Institutes of Health (NIAID 1R01AI114310-01), UNC-South China STD Research Training Center (FIC 1D43TW009532-01), UNC Center for AIDS Research (NIAID 5P30AI050410), NIMH (R34MH109359), UJMT Fogarty Fellowship (FIC R25TW0093), the North Carolina Translational & Clinical Sciences Institute (1UL1TR001111), SMU Research Initiation Project (QD2017N030, C1034448), Youth Talent Grant of Guangdong Province (2017WQNCX129), Social Science Young Teacher Supporting Project of Shenzhen University (18QNFC46), and SESH (Social Entrepreneurship to Spur Health) Global. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Competing Interests:

WT and JDT are advisors to SESH Global. All remaining authors declare that they have no competing interests relevant to this work.


Tang W, Wei C, Cao B, Wu D, Li KT, Lu H, et al. (2018) Crowdsourcing to expand HIV testing among men who have sex with men in China: A closed cohort stepped wedge cluster randomized controlled trial. PLoS Med 15(8): e1002645.

Image Credit: Victor, Flickr

Author Affiliations:

University of North Carolina Project-China, Guangzhou, China

Social Entrepreneurship to Spur Health (SESH) Global, Guangzhou, China

Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases, School of Medicine, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, United States of America

Dermatology Hospital, Southern Medical University, Guangzhou, China

School of Public Health, Southern Medical University, Guangzhou, China

Social and Behavioral Health Sciences, School of Public Health, Rutgers University, Piscataway, New Jersey, United States of America

School of Media and Communication, Shenzhen University, Shenzhen, China

Weill Cornell Medical College, New York, New York, United States of America

Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, United States of America

Shandong University School of Public Health, Jinan, China

Shandong Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Jinan, China

Department of Sociology, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, United States of America

Department of Epidemiology and Community Health, University of Minnesota Twin Cities, Minneapolis, United States of America

Department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology, Imperial College London, London, United Kingdom

Faculty of Infectious and Tropical Diseases, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, United Kingdom

Division of Community Health and Research, Eastern Virginia Medical School, Norfolk, United States of America

School of Social and Community Medicine, University of Bristol, Bristol, United Kingdom

In your coverage please use this URL to provide access to the freely available paper:


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