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Making It Starts With Me speak (or talking to an inanimate object about sex)

Making It Starts With Me speak (or talking to an inanimate object about sex)

Four of our staff with Amazon Echo

We’re always looking for new ways to let people know about the importance of HIV testing. Here’s the latest innovation from our It Starts With Me campaign: advising people when to test for HIV through voice recognition.

To coincide with National HIV Testing Week, which started on Saturday, we’ve released a ‘skill’ – the equivalent of an app – for Amazon’s voice-operated Echo devices. Alexa, the Amazon assistant, asks a few questions about your sex life and then lets you know when you should test.

Here’s what happened when some of our team tried it out:

Amazon launched its Echo home assistant in the UK in October and we’re pretty sure (having scrolled through hundreds of skills!) that It Starts With Me – National HIV Testing Week is the first Alexa skill published by a UK charity. It replicates a quiz available on the campaign’s website that advises users when they should test for HIV.

The key message of National HIV Testing Week is that everyone has the power to stop HIV. By releasing a skill for Alexa, we’re providing a new (and hopefully fun) way to interact with the campaign.

The Alexa skill encourages those most at risk to get tested, which is a crucial part of stopping HIV. One in six people living with HIV don’t know they have it – and are therefore most likely to pass on the virus. On the other hand, those who get a positive result and get onto effective treatment can go on to live healthy lives and can’t pass on HIV to others.

The skill is listed in the Health and Fitness category of the Alexa app as ‘It Starts With Me – National HIV Testing Week’. Once the skill is enabled, users can address it in several ways – for example: ‘Alexa, open Testing Week,’ ‘Alexa, ask Testing Week when to test,’ or ‘Alexa, ask Testing Week if I need an HIV test.’

Those without an Amazon Echo or Echo Dot can still access the campaign and find out when to test by visiting It Starts With Me.

National HIV Testing Week is part of the It Starts With Me HIV prevention campaign run by Terrence Higgins Trust on behalf of Public Health England.

Will HowellsWill Howells is Head of Digital at Terrence Higgins Trust.