Grindr users looking for a romantic connection can now find a reminder to get an HIV test.
The world's largest gay dating app is offering a new service to the 3.3 million users who log in each day around the world: a reminder every three to six months to get tested, along with directions to a testing site.
This new service aims to "reduce HIV transmission and support our whole community — regardless of HIV status — in living long and fulfilling lives,” Jack Harrison-Quintana, the app's director for equality, told The New York Times.
In addition, Grindr continues to offer free advertising to LGBT centers and clinics providing these health resources. The app already sends biweekly message asking users to consider pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, a daily treatment that is up to 99 percent effective in preventing HIV.
Men who have sex with men remain an at-risk group for HIV transmission. In 2014, this group had 70 percent of new HIV infections in the United States, reports the Centers for Disease Control, which recommends gay and bi men test every three to six months for HIV.
Stigma around the virus remains one of the obstacles to fighting it. The new service could counter this, praised Perry N. Halkitis, dean of the Rutgers School of Public Health. "This will ‘demedicalize’ testing and destigmatize it," he said. "The more you make it normal, the more people are going to access it."
Halkitis hopes that apps popular with black gay and bi men will follow Grindr's example. This demographic is particularly at-risk for HIV; the CDC estimates that around half will contract the virus in the lifetime, if nothing changes.
Access to care is another obstacle to HIV prevention. There are fewer testing facilities in rural areas of the United States — although Grindr is partnering with CenterLink, which works with local centers, to build its database. And while Grindr will send testing reminders internationally, it has no record of resources in antigay countries like Egypt and Russia.