Article: Gutierrez, M., Quevedo, M., Valle, S., Jacques-Avino, C., David, E., Cayla, J., Garcia de Olalla, P.(2018) Acceptability and effectiveness of using mobile applications to promote HIV and other STI testing among men who have sex with men in Barcelona, Spain. Sexual Transmitted Infections, 0, 1-6.
What They Did: Over a three-month period, researchers created online dating app profiles on three different platforms and messaged users in two different locations in Barcelona, Spain, offering them free STI and HIV testing. Once individuals showed up at the centers, they were asked through a survey how they found out about the free testing opportunity. Success was measured by how many people contacted through the apps responded positively to the messaging, and how many people turned up at the testing centers.
Results: Out of 2656 messages sent across three different apps (Grindr, PlanetRomeo, Wapo), there were 1019 responses (38.4%). Out of those who responded, 846 (83%) responded favorably, and 108 (12.8%) indicated interested in going to a testing center. Of those that indicated interest, 79 (73.2%) showed up at a testing center. The most common STDs found among those who were tested were gonorrhea and crabs.
Takeaway: Users who responded favorably to messaging tended to be 45 or older, online at the time the message was sent out, had a profile picture that was not blank or showed more than their torso, and were on Grindr. Out of the 79 people who sought out testing, 45.4% had not taken an HIV test for more than a year, and 7.8% were getting tested for the first time. This study demonstrates that offering free, confidential HIV and STI testing via dating apps is an effective and proactive method of getting MSM into testing centers. However, this success largely depends on app developers not blocking the researchers’ profiles. Therefore, it is essential that public health organizations establish formal collaborations with online app developers.
Article: Lampkin, D., Crawley, A., Lopez, T. P., Mejia, C. M., Yuen, W., & Levy, V. (2016). Reaching Suburban Men Who Have Sex With Men for STD and HIV Services Through Online Social Networking Outreach: A Public Health Approach. JAIDS Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes, 72(1), 73-78.
What they did: A suburban health department in Northern California had previously performed only street and venue-based outreach for HIV/STD services. In 2011, the department decided to create Grindr accounts for outreach staff. During two trial periods, staff measured 1) how receptive Grindr users were to receiving STD and HIV information from these accounts (October 2012-March 2013) and 2) the number of service activities offered Grindr users (October 2013-March 2014). They compared their results to the same period the year before they began Grindr outreach (October 2011-March 2012).
Results: During the first six-month trial period, outreach staff contacted 305 users, which was a 500% total increase in contacts. During the second six-month trial period, they reached 816 contacts through Grindr, which was a more than 1500% increase in all contacts. Of the 68.9% of Grindr users who remained engaged with outreach staff during the second trial period, 35% of these users received one or more of the following services: counseling, referrals, testing, or treatment.
Takeaway: Many gay and bisexual men are open to HIV / STD outreach by health department staff through hook up apps, which could lead to many more health education and testing opportunities than traditional in-person strategies.
Click here for more information on outreach efforts on apps and sites.
Article: Pennise, M., Inscho, R., Herpin, K., Owens Jr, J., Bedard, B. A., Weimer, A. C., & Younge, M. (2015). Using smartphone apps in STD interviews to find sexual partners.Public health reports, 130(3), 245-252.
What they did: In 2013, a county health department in New York conducted an STD investigation among a sexual network of 97 individuals, nearly all black gay or bisexual men. Disease investigators used smartphones in the field during in-person interviews to access profiles and conversations within Adam4Adam, Jack’d, Facebook, and Black Gay Chat Live. They searched for names and contact information of individuals exposed to HIV or an STD. Staff reached out to these contacts and their corresponding networks through formal county accounts on these sites, in person, or via phone.
Results: Disease investigators identified seven new infections within the network, including two new HIV infections. Eight individuals identified during the investigation would not have been found without smartphones in the field. Of the 82 people in this network living in this area, only 15 individuals refused testing or could not be found.
Takeaway: Access to contact information within hook up apps can help health department staff identify new HIV and STD infections.
Click here for more information on partner services
Sun, C. J., Stowers, J., Miller, C., Bachmann, L. H., & Rhodes, S. D. (2015). Acceptability and feasibility of using established geosocial and sexual networking mobile applications to promote HIV and STD testing among men who have sex with men. AIDS and Behavior, 19(3), 543-552.
What they did: Researchers conducted an anonymous online survey in 2013 of 457 gay and bisexual men in North Carolina to assess the acceptability of receiving sexual health information through hook-up apps. A health educator at an AIDS service organization in Greensboro, NC, also created professional accounts on A4A Radar, Grindr, Jack’d, and Scruff between August 2013 and February 2014 to provide sexual health information and referrals for users. The health educator documented all interactions.
Results: Of the 450 participants who responded to the questionnaire, 63.8% wanted to receive sexual health information through a hook-up app. The health educator documented 1,780 profile views from users across A4A Radar, Jack’d, and Scruff and 929 conversations across all four apps. Of the 240 sexual health conversations, 63 (26.3%) led to testing referrals.
Takeaways: Many gay and bisexual men want access to sexual health information through hook-up apps. These apps can also be an effective way for health educators to reach users and to connect them to testing resources.
Czarny, H. N., & Broaddus, M. R. (2017). Acceptability of HIV Prevention Information Delivered Through Established Geosocial Networking Mobile Applications to Men Who Have Sex With Men.AIDS and Behavior. 1-7.
What they did: Researchers conducted a survey at an LGBT pride festival in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, of 224 gay and bisexual men who use hook-up apps to assess the acceptability of receiving HIV prevention information via these apps.
Results: While participants responded that all types of sexual health information were acceptable, some types had higher acceptability than others. Participants were most open to learning about locations for HIV testing and free condoms, PrEP, and partner communication strategies. They were less open to information on HIV home testing, HIV support groups, and HIV risk reduction. They were least open to chatting with a physician online and drug and alcohol information. Regarding preferences for how frequently they received information, participants responded that only when actively seeking it out and through weekly alerts were the most acceptable, but were much less receptive to daily alerts, before starting a new conversation, or every time they open the app were the most unacceptable.
Takeaway: Hook-up app users are open to receiving all types of sexual health information through apps and prefer weekly rather than frequent messaging.