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Grindr is successfully convincing gay men to get tested for HIV, study shows

It’s not all fun and games on the dating app scene — there are lives being saved too. As these apps continue to rise in popularity, everyone from politicians to companies to researchers are taking advantage of this new trend in love. Now, a new study suggests that Grindr could be an effective medium for getting black and Hispanic men to try home HIV testing kits.

In a study led by UCLA researchers recently published in Sexual Health, the popular gay dating app was found to be “an effective means through which to distribute HIV self-testing kits among men who have sex with men who have a high risk for contracting the virus.” Scientists reported that “advertising placed on the app has a high potential to reach untested high-risk populations and reduce the spread of HIV,” and additionally noted, “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.”

While the study was relatively small (taking place only in Los Angeles and distributing fewer than 400 total kits), it paves the way for much larger activations when it comes to reaching the gay community with regard to crucial HIV testing. Considering that Grindr’s user base is at least 5 million strong and spans 192 countries, using the app as an information dissemination tool could be extremely powerful and effective.

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In conducting their study, the UCLA team advertised free HIV self-test kits on Grindr for a month, directing interested parties to a study website where they could either choose to receive a test in the mail, through a local pharmacy voucher, or through a code applicable at a vending machine. The painless test simply required a swab of the gums, and promised results in 20 minutes.

The study found that 4,389 people visited the study site, and 333 men requested the HIV test (most of whom asked for it by mail). And among the 56 black and Hispanic men who participated in the survey, 69 percent had not been tested in the last six months. This remains in line with a disturbing trend in the U.S. today, in which these two demographics are simultaneously the most likely to be HIV positive, and the last likely to be tested for it due to both social stigma and socioeconomic conditions.

Dr. Jeffrey D. Klausner, an HIV specialist at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine and one of the authors of the paper, hopes Grindr can be further used in other cities and countries to encourage testing.