Gay Dating Apps Become Messengers for Warnings on HIV

Oliver Staley
Original Article:

To reach young gay men about the need for HIV testing, health advocates are turning to an unconventional messenger: gay dating apps on smartphones.

“The people that we are trying to reach are all on their sites,” said Jen Hecht, director of program development and operations for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. “They have a captive audience.”

New infections for gay and bisexual males age 24 or younger surged 22 percent from 2008 to 2010, almost double the increase among all gay men, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Health workers struggling to reach young men through traditional advertising have turned to the dating apps, which now let users declare their HIV status and generate reminders to get tested. The approach has prompted thousands to visit clinics.

The San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the CDC coordinated an online campaign last month with several dating services to promote testing. The messages, which were donated by the app companies, were seen by 19 million users and more than 30,000 clicked through for more information, Hecht said.

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