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In the last decade there has been a sharp increase in the spread of smartphones, with a parallel increase in the use of geosocial networking (GSN) applications (apps) in men who have sex with men (MSM). One of the most popular uses of GSN apps among MSM is for finding nearby sexual or romantic partners. GSN apps such as Grindr, Hornet, Jack’d and Scruff have become quite popular and there are now tens of millions of MSM who use such apps globally.1 In a meta-analysis of MSM GSN users, app users versus non-app users were found to be younger, more likely to engage in risky sexual behaviours and have a higher prevalence of prior STIs, but lower prevalence of HIV.1 It has become of great interest to see whether GSN apps can also be used as platforms to promote increased sexual health awareness and testing for HIV and STIs.
There have been several types of interventions that have used apps to promote HIV and STI awareness and testing. One approach has been to use stand-alone HIV/STI apps that have been created to provide services such as information about HIV/STIs, testing information and condom promotion. However, these apps were infrequently downloaded and not highly rated, limiting their effectiveness.2 An alternative approach is to use existing popular GSN apps to promote HIV and STI testing. Some groups have used advertising/pop-up messaging within GSN apps for this purpose. This method has been used within Grindr to recruit MSM in Los Angeles, California for rectal microbicide development research,3 increase syphilis testing in Darwin, Australia,4 and increase HIV self-testing among minority MSM in Los Angeles, California.5 A more proactive approach has also …
Handling editor Jackie A Cassell
Contributors JYC and JDK collaborated to develop a detailed outline. JYC wrote the first draft. JDK revised and expanded the manuscript. Both authors revised, reviewed and approved the final version.
Funding This study was funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (10.13039/100000060) and grant number: UCLA Center for AIDS Research (CFAR) NIH/NIAID AI028697.
Competing interests None declared.
Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.
- Digital communications and sexual health