Men who have sex with men are at a higher risk of contracting the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). But going directly to the source can amp up testing.
Testing is one of the top challenges when it comes to controlling the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco (UCLA) found that going straight to the source, or straight to the cell phone app, can effectively encourage testing.
Grindr, a social networking site for friendships or romantic relationships, was created for gay and bisexual men. It’s not news that men who have sex with men are especially at risk for contracting HIV; so finding a way to link Grindr and HIV testing seems like a natural relationship — but would it work?
“Among men who have sex with men in Los Angeles, blacks and Latinos have the highest rate of HIV infection, and black men in that group are four times likelier than white men to not know they are infected,” a UCLA statement said.
The researchers advertised the free home testing kit on Grindr from October 2013 to November 2014. During this time, there were 300,000 banner ads and three broadcast messages shown to users in Los Angeles. Out of 4,389 unique hits, 333 men requested the HIV self-testing kit. Of those, 247 men (74%) wanted it sent by mail, 58 men (17%) through a voucher, and 28 men (8%) through the vending machine.
“Men who responded to the offer to use the self-test kit had a high risk for HIV infection and were more likely to have been tested infrequently in the past,” the statement continued.
A total of 125 of the participants also took the accompanying online survey. The results showed that 74% reported having anal intercourse without a condom within the previous three months. In addition, 29% hadn’t been tested for HIV in more than one year and 9% had never been tested for the virus. Only 56 men revealed their HIV test status, but two of them (4%) were newly positive.
Published in the journal Sexual Health, the findings indicate that users are willing to provide personal information in order to receive the free HIV test over a social networking app. This is a way to advertise to a different population that may have otherwise not have been reached.
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