A new study has revealed that 10% of men who use Grindr, the hook-up app that helps gay and bisexual men in the same vicinity meet, may never have had an HIV test in their lives.
Dr. Jeffrey T. Parsons, director of Hunter College’s Center for HIV Educational Studies and Training (CHEST), worked with senior data analyst Jon Rendina to survey more than 1,300 gay and bisexual men in the New York City area who use Grindr.
“When we first began looking at the data, we were surprised to find that 1 in 10 men on Grindr in NYC had never received an HIV test and we quickly realised we needed to look further into the issue,” said Rendina
Further analysis showed the rate of untested men was even higher among younger men, with 1 in 5 young gay or bisexual men between the ages of 18-24 having never received an HIV test.
Nearly one-third of the men who had never tested also reported engaging in anal sex without a condom in the past three months.
Also one-third of those men reported their HIV status as HIV-negative, which as Rendina points out, “may mean that men are sharing potentially inaccurate HIV status information with their partners on Grindr.”
On the plus side, half of all the men surveyed said they’d received an HIV test in the past six months, and over 70% of them had been tested in the past year.
The researchers also found that men who engage in risky sexual behaviour had been tested more recently than men who hadn’t, suggesting awareness among these men of an increased risk for HIV infection.
Additionally, the proportion of younger men of colour who had received HIV tests was higher than other men in this survey.
“These findings suggest that some prevention messages – specifically that MSM (men who have sex with men) that engage in unprotected sex should have more frequent HIV testing – are reaching the intended audience,” said Dr. Parsons.
“Further, it is good to see that community-based efforts to provide HIV testing to young men of colour appear to be working.”
In 2012 Grindr was blamed for a rise in HIV infections in Hong Kong and syphilis infections in New Zealand.
Grindr reportedly crashed during the 2012 London Olympic Games, apparently due to the massive rise in use when thousands of athletes and support staff arrived in the British capital, the city with the most active Grindr users.
The app was recently blocked by the Turkish government due to “morality” concerns.