On April 25, Nasdaq-listed BlueCity was named a winner in the World Health Organization’s (WHO) first-ever Western Pacific Innovation Challenge: Innovation for the Future of Public Health. The firm won the accolade for its Internet+ HIV interventions on Blued, a world-leading online LGBTQ+ community platform connecting over 60 million users across several continents. With a focus on fostering connection and enhancing the well-being of its global community, BlueCity has spearheaded a series of innovations in the field of public health. It has tapped into the power of the internet to realize a new era of digitally-enabled services.
On the HIV prevention front, BlueCity pioneered the concept of Internet+ HIV prevention in 2008, integrating online and offline resources to streamline access to HIV testing, counseling, and treatment. Today, these online interventions include HIV risk assessments, health promotion, needs assessments, HIV counseling and testing, and PrEP/PEP services. Over 170 NGOs provide HIV prevention and treatment education via Blued across most of China’s regions, while this service is currently being rolled out in other countries as well.
Besides physical well-being, BlueCity is also deeply engaged in another type of security – data security. The company goes to great lengths to ensure that user identities are protected on its platforms, and that operations are compliant with international data frameworks.
In an interview, Liang Zhao, Chief Risk Officer of BlueCity, discussed how BlueCity is tackling Internet+ HIV prevention, PrEP/PEP services, and privacy.
Q: BlueCity was among the first to introduce the concept of Internet+ HIV prevention in China. Could you describe how this works?
Zhao: For HIV prevention to be effective, it must be convenient, discreet, and – above all – timely. That’s why Danlan Public Interest, BlueCity’s CSR arm, approaches HIV prevention with a collaborative approach. We have built up relationships with community partners across China and demonstrate a network of nearly 7,000 testing locations on Blued. This coverage enables our users to quickly access HIV prevention services by simply searching for them on Blued. Users can directly make appointments with more than 200 testing centers in over 30 cities, and we are working to broaden this service to markets outside of China.
Q: How do your PrEP and PEP services work?
Zhao: Via Blued, we provide easy access to timely and professional HIV screening, pre-exposure prophylaxis (“PrEP”), and post-exposure prophylaxis (“PEP”) solutions. Users can order such medications in over 200 major Chinese cities. We also offer express delivery of PEP medication, with delivery within two hours during business hours, in nearly 70 major Chinese cities. Timing is crucial to the effectiveness of PEP. The internet, coupled with China’s extensive delivery network, is empowering quick and seamless access to this critical medication.
Moreover, we have a customer service team that offers basic guidance and information, as well as online referrals to HIV specialists who provide follow-up and one-on-one consultation services. We are bringing the success of these services to countries outside of China, and have recently launched a campaign to raise awareness of HIV prevention and enable access to PrEP/PEP in South Korea.
Q: We know privacy and data security is a critical issue for internet companies. What does it mean for BlueCity and your LGBTQ users?
Zhao: Privacy is non-negotiable, and protecting user privacy is central to our mission. With a history dating back to 2000, we have an unparalleled understanding of our community members, especially for their concerns over privacy.
Blued has implemented several measures to make sure they feel safe on our platform, such as prohibiting users from taking a screenshot or recording a video while using the app. To crack down on fraudulent accounts, Blued has formed a dedicated anti-fraud team that covers security, risk control, and technical AI identification. We also carry out regular online safety campaigns to raise awareness of the issue.
Q: How has COVID-19 impacted your platforms and the LGBTQ community at large?
Zhao: We are constantly exploring new ways to connect our community, all the while ensuring that safety remains number one. We believe our products and services, including our signature livestreaming feature, have been playing an increasingly important role in keeping our community connected and entertained during difficult times.
In the past few years, we have also held fully-digital pride events, launched campaigns around the world, and donated critical resources to NGOs. The LGBTQ community is formidable and resilient; we will make sure that our spirit continues to shine wherever, and however, possible.