Building Healthy Online Communities (BHOC) is a consortium of public health leaders and gay dating website and app owners who are working together to support HIV and STI prevention online.
Dan Wohlfeiler and Jen Hecht, who together have more than 40 years of combined experience in HIV and STD prevention, co-founded BHOC in 2014. Dan Wohlfeiler directs BHOC and it is additionally staffed by the National Coalition of STD Directors and San Francisco AIDS Foundation.
Dan and Jen have built strong relationships with app and website owners and have found many opportunities for collaboration. These include developing profile options that allow users to make informed choices about their partners; coordinating development and placement of public health messaging about STD and HIV prevention and treatment; and supporting initiatives to allow users to notify their partners that they may have been exposed to an STD.
After conducting research to determine which online prevention strategies had the support of app and site users, owners, and STD and HIV program directors, BHOC convened a groundbreaking meeting between owners and public health leaders in September 2014. Owners were eager to collaborate to promote testing, provide accurate information, reduce stigma, and implement the most effective interventions to reduce the impact of HIV and STDs. They also told public health leaders they wanted guidance on how to best promote gay men’s health.
Public health professionals at the meeting included representatives from San Francisco AIDS Foundation, National Coalition of STD Directors, NASTAD, AIDS United, and Project Inform. They continue to take active roles in informing and implementing BHOC efforts.
Key site and app owners who have collaborated with BHOC include Adam4Adam, BarebackRT, Black Gay Chat, Daddyhunt/Mr X, Dudesnude, Gay.com, Grindr, GROWLr, Hornet, POZ Personals, and SCRUFF.
Current initiatives include:
- Training health departments on best practices in preventing HIV and STDs online, in collaboration with the National Technology Services Workgroup
- Ongoing consultation with site and app owners to support the health of their users
- Supporting the development of a webseries with Daddyhunt, incorporating a storyline about HIV and STD prevention, as well as five public service announcements
- Partnering with Human Rights Campaign to develop information for STD Awareness Month
- Finalizing development of bhocpartners.org, which will provide comprehensive information for users about how to prevent the transmission of STDs and HIV; best practices for owners in how to create healthy, stigma-free environments for their users; links to existing advertising campaigns; a literature review of important articles about online prevention; news updates, and much more.
- Ongoing testing and placement of messaging to promote testing, PrEP, condom use, and HIV treatment
- Creation, curation and editing of blog content (an example)
- Collaborating with the developers of pleaseprepme.org and preplocator.org in their efforts to promote information about and access to PrEP providers
- Research with the University of Washington to assess app users’ preferences about how best to support notifying their partners that they may have been exposed to an STD
- Development of a training platform for public health professionals to develop expertise in notifying partners
Here is a report on the September, 2014 meeting between site and app owners and HIV/STD prevention leaders
For more information on the formative research survey used to guide prevention efforts online, please see the resources linked below:
- How Can We Improve Online HIV and STD Prevention for Men Who Have Sex with Men? Perspectives of Hook-Up Website Owners, Website Users, and HIV/STD Directors, Article in AIDS and Behavior, 2013.
- How can we improve HIV and STD Prevention Online for MSM? Assessing the Preferences of Website Owners, Website Users, and HIV/STD Directors, 2011 Report
Building Healthy Online Communities held a meeting with STD/HIV program directors, HIV community-based organizations, and CDC representatives on Dec. 9, 2015 to discuss next steps in prioritizing interventions and research for prevention on dating sites and apps. Here is a report of the December, 2015 meeting.
Bhocpartners.org was designed by Annabel Mangold. A special thanks to Michael Marcel, Susannah Champlin, Stephen Hicks, Lindsay O’Keefe and Emily Newman for all of their help in writing and editing. We’d also like to thank the hundreds of colleagues working in dating sites and apps, as well as in HIV and STD prevention, for providing their content and expertise.
BHOC thanks The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation, Gilead Sciences, Inc., and Google for their support of this work.
BHOC in the News
Syphilis rates are on the rise, and dating apps may be playing a role, experts say
(USA Today, 7/11/17)
Daddyhunt: The Serial: Hot Men Talking Sex, Romance, and HIV
Daddyhunt: The Serial Returns for Second Season with a Focus on PrEP
Grindr, Largest Gay Hookup App, Adds Fields for HIV Status, Undetectable, and PrEP Use
New nationwide PrEP directory debuts
(Bay Area Reporter, 9/22/16)
For Gay Men Seeking HIV Info, Hookup Apps Are Good for More Than Dates
Are Hookup Apps Fueling A Spike In Sexually Transmitted Diseases?
(Huffington Post, 2/2/16)
AIDS groups, app reps discuss outreach
(Bay Area Reporter, 10/30/14)
Gay Dating Website & App Owners Join the Fight Against HIV
Grindr Gets a Conscience
(HIV Equal, 10/22/14)
About This Site
Are you the owner or manager of an online dating app or website? Are you interested in promoting gay men’s health? Then this site is for you.
(If you are in public health or a researcher interested in HIV and STD prevention for gay men, then scroll down to see what this site can do for you).
Dating apps and websites provide an easy, fun, and efficient way for gay, bi, and trans men to meet. They also create a unique, effective opportunity to reach a community disproportionately affected by HIV and STDs.
What owners have repeatedly said to BHOC is that they want to help. They want to promote testing, provide their users with clear, accurate information, and be able to learn about and implement the most effective online prevention strategies.
We built this website to address those needs, and to provide a central, go-to source for information and resources to help you promote the health of your users.
This website will help you to effectively, efficiently, and at the lowest cost possible, take a more active role in transforming the way we approach sex ed and promote gay, bi and trans men’s health. Implementing strategies for your users to share personal sexual health preferences with each other, getting information into the hands of your users, and building a supportive and friendly online community will create a better user experience and keep your users healthy.
So what exactly will you find here?
In the “Making Your Site Healthier” section we provide easy-to-follow ideas for how to integrate key features into your site that make it a kinder, healthier, and more supportive environment for your users. This means allowing users to share sexual health and preference information with each other more easily, and creating an online experience that combats stigma and is safe for everyone. “Making Your Site Healthier” includes information on:
- Creating profile options that support users in sharing sexual health and preference information
- Sharing anti-stigma efforts used by some dating apps and websites
- Sharing ad campaigns that promote HIV testing, treatment, and fight stigma
- Articles about dating and hook-up sites
- LGBTQ and health awareness days you may be interested in knowing about
In the “Give Users Good Info” section you will find sex-ed content you can share with gay, bi, and trans men on your dating app or website. This information has been written in such a way to make it easy for you to drag-and-drop specific content into your app/website. However, the way this information makes it to your users is up to you. You may find it more suitable to link directly to our website, or to other online resources we have provided within the site. This content can also be customized to fit the language you use on your app or can be translated into an article for your website’s health blog. We value your feedback in making this information the most useful for your users. “Give Users Good Info” includes:
- Sex-positive content, videos, tutorials, and links to other online resources for health information tailored to gay, bi and trans men’s needs
- The latest and most accurate information on sex, HIV/STDs, condoms & lube, PrEP, Treatment as Prevention, PEP, mental health and drugs, and testing
- HIV and STD testing reminder services
In the “Help Users Notify Partners” section you will find information on how you can make it easy for users to let their partners know that they may need to get tested based on a recent exposure to an STD. There are several different ways to do that. Some gay men like to do it themselves; others have found it easier to ask a health department or community clinic professional to do it for them. Partner notification is a well-honed, confidential way to make sure that users who are most at risk for STDs get offered the opportunity to get tested and treated. “Help Notifying Partners” includes:
- An explanation of partner notification
- The evidence behind the effectiveness of internet partner services
- Resources including links and language for how to describe it to your users
If there’s something you don’t see here – and you want it – please contact us. Thank you for your ongoing leadership and support in gay men’s health.
Are you in public health or a researcher interested in HIV and STD prevention for gay men in dating apps and sites? Then this site is also for you.
If you’re here, you already know that dating sites and apps can play an important role in preventing HIV and STDs. They can help educate millions of users about how to take care of themselves. They can help users make informed choices about their sexual health, and to communicate effectively with their partners. This site is aimed at helping all of us – public health, researchers, and site and app owners – support those efforts as effectively and efficiently as possible.
In this site, you’ll find state-of-the art – and scientific – information on how to promote gay men’s health online. We’ve included information on how to buy ads online, examples of ad campaigns and contact information if you want to borrow them, and comprehensive sex ed information. We’ll also be supporting health departments and community organizations’ efforts to get alerts out to users when there’s an urgent outbreak.
If there’s something you don’t see here – and you want it – please contact us. Thank you for all you do and your commitment to gay men’s health.