Introduction In Los Angeles County, about 25% of men who have sex with men (MSM) are unaware of their HIV positive status. Using smartphone social networking applications (apps) to promote free HIV self-testing might help reduce common barriers for testing, including poor access, stigma, and fear of loss of confidentiality.
Methods We advertised free HIV self-tests on Grindr™, a smartphone geosocial networking app popular with MSM, from April 17 to May 29, 2014, and from October 13 to November 11, 2014. The advertisements linked users to http://freehivselftests.weebly.com/to choose a self-test delivery method: US mail, a drugstore voucher, or from a vending machine. African American or Latino MSM ≥18 years old were invited to take a survey on testing experiences.
Results During the two waves of the campaign, the website received 16,328 unique visitors (average: 227 per day) and 667 self-test requests. Of those 667, 471 (71%) were requests for mailed self-tests, 157 (23%) were for vouchers, and 39 (6%) were to use the vending machine. Among 112 (63%) survey respondents of 178 invited, study-eligible participants, 64% were between 18–30 years old, 18% were Black/African American, 77% reported at least one episode of condomless anal sex in the past three months, and 38% last tested for HIV over a year ago or had never tested. One hundred six (95%) reported using the self-test was easy; 4 persons reported testing HIV positive and all 4 (100%) sought medical care.
Conclusion Free HIV self-testing promotion through Grindr™ resulted in a large number of HIV self-test requests. Users preferred US mail self-test delivery, found the self-tests easy to use, and sought medical care if testing positive. Future work should evaluate different smartphone apps and compare smartphone social networking app promotion of self-testing with other HIV testing services.
Disclosure of interest statement The authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose.
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