The feature will direct users to the nearest clinic that offers ‘non-judgy’ testing
The world’s largest gay dating app, Grindr, will now offer regular reminders to get tested for HIV.
The new feature will send discreet push notifications every three to six months to any of the 3.6 million users around the world who opt in for it.
It will also direct them to the nearest clinic that offers ‘non-judgy’ testing, and will post ads from queer-friendly clinics and support groups.
The move, hailed by public health officials as a ‘breakthrough’, comes after the huge success of a pilot version in a low-income, rural part of Pennsylvania. A quarter of responders had never been tested before, and almost half (46 percent) hadn’t been tested in more than a year.
Grindr is made for all people who identify as bi or homosexual, but is primarily geared towards men.
It is available in every country in the world, and executives say they are actively working to offer the notification feature in to all users, though they anticipate some obstacles in homophobic countries like Indonesia, which have laws penalizing homosexuality.
Starting in the app’s home country, America, healthcare providers are excited about the impact it could have.
‘Anything that helps make HIV testing a more routine part of ‘life maintenance’ is a welcome addition to the landscape, especially in a space so important to many men’s sexual fulfilment,’ said Dr Demetre Daskalakis, the deputy commissioner for New York City’s Department of Health.
Dr Daskalakis, whose campaigns in the last couple of years have been credited with driving up testing rates in New York, added that he hopes the platform spreads awareness about both contraception and medications to help prevent infection, and treatments for those that test positive.
Recent CDC figures revealed HIV infection rates have plummeted among all groups but are on the rise among some groups of gay men, particularly the young and Latino.
Since 2008, the overall rate among men who have sex with men (MSM) decreased around 14 percent.
However, the rate has increased 5.7 percent among gay men aged 25 to 34, and 3.1 percent among Latinos.
‘Grindr’s making it as easy to get tested as to find a date,’ said Dan Wohlfeiler, director of Building Healthy Online Communities.
‘Getting tested regularly for STDs, including HIV is one of the most important things a guy can do for his own health, and his partner’s.’
Wohlfeiler said they encourage other apps to follow suit, gleefully insisting they have no intentions to trademark the feature.
Crucially, he said, he hopes apps geared towards black and Latino users will start to provide similar feature.
In 2015, Grindr collaborated with the San Francisco AIDS Foundation to fund a survey into racial disparities in the way doctors prescribe HIV-prevention medication (PrEP).
The findings revealed doctors more freely prescribed PrEP to white patients, and questioned Latino and African American patients on their motives.
The testing notification move is the latest in a series of measures the app has taken to incorporate health into the user’s experience.
Last spring, Grindr launched a section on user profiles to include their HIV status and last test date in a bid to destigmatize prevention and testing.
The app also now translates health information into Spanish as many advocates insist the language barrier is one of the big issues to overcome in order to curb Latino HIV rates.