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Gay dating apps pledge to do more to combat HIV stigma and promote testing

Gay dating apps pledge to do more to combat HIV stigma and promote testing

Representatives of seven of the most popular gay dating websites and apps have collaborated with leading US AIDS organizations to discuss strategies to help promote HIV/STI testing and to reduce the stigma associated with HIV infection.

The results of a San Francisco summit between representatives of the dating sites and health leaders – including San Francisco AIDS Foundation, and amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research – have been published in a new report.

Across the US, around 20% of gay and bisexual men are estimated to be living with HIV, while some estimates indicate that 3 in 5 men now meet their partners online.

The apps and websites that were able to attend the summit – which took place over two days in early September – included BarebackRT, Daddyhunt, Dudesnude, Gay.com, Grindr, PozPersonals, and SCRUFF. Three other apps were unable to attend the summit but have pledged their support.

‘The owners of these sites said it loud and clear: They are committed to promoting community health and contributing to the end of HIV transmission,’ said Tim Patriarca, executive director of gay and bi men’s health and wellness at San Francisco AIDS Foundation.

‘These sites and apps have an immense reach and they want to work closely with public health to learn how they can contribute to prevention efforts,’ said University of California, San Francisco researcher Dan Wohlfeiler, one of the meeting’s organizers.

‘They’re demonstrating their corporate responsibility.’

‘Supporting our users’ health is the right thing to do,’ said Sidney Stokes, who leads the social action division for Grindr, which reports more than six million users per month.

‘We’ve wanted to help for many years, but weren’t sure how best to do it. It’s great to be working together on this effort.’

‘Many website and app owners need public health’s experience and guidance to figure out what strategies can have the greatest impact,’ said Carl Sandler, CEO of MISTER app and Daddyhunt, on his participation in the summit.

Areas of agreement discussed at the summit included site and app owners encouraging users to get tested for HIV and sexually-transmitted infections.

They also committed to exploring ways in which users could disclose their status in a non-shaming way. This could involve optional, stigma-free profile options, such as ‘positive, ‘undetectable’, or ‘negative as of’, with a date of the users last HIV test. Users could also express partner preferences such as ‘HIV-neutral,’ or ‘Poz-friendly.’ Such terms are felt to be less shaming than terms such as ‘disease-free’.

It was also agreed that app and site owners could share further information with users about disease outbreaks and new HIV prevention tools, such as PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis).