Grindr Gets a Conscience
Whether you like it or not, gay dating apps like Grindr and SCRUFF are here to stay as one of the prominent ways in which gay men prefer to meet other men. An estimated three out of five gay men meet or engage their partners online, and gay dating apps have a combined audience in the tens of millions around the world.
For the owners of these apps, the rise in popular usage has also meant a greater stake in the health and wellness of its users. Critics of Grindr and other apps claim that these online environments have created a rise in unsafe sexual practices and the use of stigmatizing language without the ability to advocate for testing, education and prevention.
At a meeting with public health leaders in San Francisco, representatives from seven of the most prominent gay dating apps met to discuss how to build healthier online communities and aid in the prevention efforts for their users.
Grindr, SCRUFF, BarebackRT, Daddyhunt, Dudesnude, Gay.com and PozPersonals were all represented at the two-day meeting with the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, amfAR and the Foundation for AIDS Research. Other sites such as Bigmuscle are looking to join in the efforts to support their users’ healthy practices, but were unable to attend the meeting.
“The owners of these sites said it loud and clear: They are committed to promoting community health and contributing to the end of HIV transmission,” said Tim Patriarca, executive director of gay and bi men’s health and wellness at San Francisco AIDS Foundation.
“Supporting our users’ health is the right thing to do,” said Sidney Stokes, who leads the social action division for Grindr, which reports more than six million users per month. “We’ve wanted to help for many years, but weren’t sure how best to do it. It’s great to be working together on this effort.”
The collaborative effort will focus on three actions pertaining to the health of gay and bisexual men. These actions will be:
To promote HIV/STI testing among users of the dating apps. The sites will employ innovative messaging to encourage users to get tested regularly and know their HIV status.
To reduce HIV stigma and the negative language that induces shame among people who are HIV positive. The sites will provide stigma-free language to communicate the user’s HIV status on their profile, such as “positive,” “undetectable,” “HIV-neutral” or “Poz-friendly.”
To collaborate with public health officials to distribute updated information on HIV, owners of the dating sites will now disseminate useful information on STI outbreaks, new preventative tools such as PrEP and PEP, and new testing technologies.
This breakthrough collaboration represents an effort to update HIV prevention and education in a way that will better meet the needs of gay and bisexual men, ages 13 to 29. While all other demographics demonstrated a decrease in HIV infection, this group experienced a 132.5% increase in infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Organizations that use more traditional methods of HIV outreach have grappled to reach this group of men as apps like Grindr and SCRUFF continue to change the way that they engage other men in sexual behavior. This agreement aims to address this change in gay social dynamics to curb HIV infection rates among gay and bisexual men and reduce the stigma associated with HIV and HIV/STI testing.