AIDS Concern statement on Message from your Ex campaign


6th December, 2015

AIDS Concern statement
on Message from your Ex campaign

Last week World AIDS Day took place on Tuesday 1st December. AIDS Concern wishes to thank everyone who helped us raise awareness of HIV. HIV testing numbers are up as a result of the campaign and more people have been diagnosed with HIV meaning they can get the help they need. 

During the week of World AIDS Day AIDS Concern focused on educating the public about the continuing risk of HIV/AIDS. The theme used for the week’s campaign was Know your HIV status, if you have been at risk of HIV get tested. AIDS Concern provides free, confidential and anonymous HIV testing.

The campaign had a number of elements including the social media campaign A Message from your Ex. Some commentators have criticized AIDS Concern for running this campaign, saying that they think this it is inappropriate behavior for an NGO which risks creating public panic.

The campaign uses an internet microsite ex.life where members of the public can send ‘A message from an ex’ to their friend by mobile phone SMS. The first message the friend receives imitates an ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend saying that the ex might have been infected with HIV and suggesting that the recipient considers getting tested for HIV. At the time while the message recipient is reading that message a second message is sent to them saying that the first message is not real but is sent by one of their friends to remind them about the risk of HIV and to ask them to consider testing for HIV. It also contains a link to the campaign microsite so the recipient can get information about HIV and HIV testing.

Some people have expressed concern about data privacy. AIDS Concern is not sending unsolicited SMS to members of the public. Friends can send messages to each other via the website. The telephone number is stored briefly to make sure that no further messages can be sent to the same person. All numbers will be deleted after the campaign has finished and not used for any other purpose as clearly stated on the campaign website.

AIDS Concern Chief Executive Andrew Chidgey comments:

‘Hong Kong faces the biggest number of new infections we have ever seen in 30 years of the local HIV epidemic. Every day 2 more people get infected meaning that we will likely see 800 more new infections in the current year. HIV if untreated can lead to significant harm, distress and health problems. Every week people get diagnosed HIV positive by AIDS Concern. Last week we released data showing that for people diagnosed HIV positive in the last 6 months many of them seriously under estimated their risk of infection. It’s time to put a stop to this.

‘The public have told AIDS Concern that current public education campaigns which tell people about safer sex campaigns and using condoms are too weak and are failing to have impact. People at risk are not acting on the campaigns and as a result are getting infected with HIV, changing their lives forever and requiring medical treatment for many decades. The Message from your Ex campaign seeks to make a serious point about the risk of HIV and the need for people to get tested. It is not in any way making fun of HIV.

‘We understand some people may experience a moment of discomfort as a result of the campaign. Our intention is to help people to give their friends a moment of reflection and concern before receiving information that this is a campaign and if they are concerned about HIV they should get tested. AIDS Concern has no intention to cause shock or distress. However, the time for gentle public campaigns is over. We want to see Hong Kong with Zero new infections, Zero stigma for people with HIV and Zero AIDS Deaths. That requires a more confronting public campaign.

‘The Message from your Ex campaign which started on 2nd December will be running until this week to support the efforts to get more testing done for HIV and identify new cases quickly. In the past week since World AIDS Day the number of people HIV testing at AIDS Concern’s centre in Jordan has increased substantially with hundreds of people testing. We have also held testing at venues across the City. This has resulted in identification of people with HIV who can now get treatment to improve their health and prevent infection of others. If anyone need to get tested for HIV please contact AIDS Concern for a free, confidential and anonymous test. You can telephone us on 23946677 or visit test.aidsconcern.org.hk. We are continuing to review the Message from your Ex campaign and will make changes as required.’

For further information, please contact

Annie Li
Communications Officer
AIDS Concern
Tel: 2898 4411 / 9753 9074
annie.li@aidsconcern.org.hk