A recent study has found that the gay dating app Grindr is a pretty effective way to get black and Hispanic men who like to have sex with men to try home H.I.V. self-testing kits. The home test doesn't require blood, but rather uses a swab of the gums to generate reliable results in 20 minutes.
Of the 56 Los Angeles area men who participated in the study and received kits, two men learned from the kits that they were infected.
From the New York Times:
The small study was confined to Los Angeles, and fewer than 400 test kits were distributed, but the idea has broader potential. Grindr is used by at least five million men in 192 countries, according to its developer.
In the United States, young gay black and Hispanic men are the groups most likely to be infected with H.I.V. and the least likely to be tested for it, because they often lack health insurance and fear being rejected by their families.
In some other countries, gay men may be harassed, jailed or even executed.
From the study abstract:
Our study aimed to determine if Grindr™ is an effective means of reaching high-risk men who have sex with men (MSM) for HIV testing. In Los Angeles (LA), Black and Latino MSM have the highest rate of HIV infection, and Black MSM in LA are four-fold more likely than white MSM to not know they are infected with HIV. Those MSM are also major users of social networking apps. Grindr™ was used to provide access to free HIV self-testing. Methods: Free HIV self-test kits were advertised on Grindr™ from 13 October to 11 November 2014, consisting of 300 000 banner ads and three broadcast messages targeting a high-risk HIV population in LA. Eligible participants, Black or Latino, MSM and who were aged ≥18 years of age, were invited to take a survey 2 weeks after test delivery. Results: The website received 4389 unique visitors and 333 test requests, of which 247 (74%) were requests for mailed tests, 58 (17%) were for vouchers and 28 (8%) were for vending machines. Of the 125 participants, 74% reported at least one episode of condomless anal intercourse in the past 3 months, 29% last tested for HIV over 1 year ago and 9% had never been tested. Conclusions: It was feasible to use Grindr™ to distribute HIV self-test kits. Users are willing to provide personal information in exchange for a free self-test and found self-tests acceptable and easy to use. HIV self-testing promotion through apps has a high potential to reach untested high-risk populations.