How dating apps can help distribute HIV self-test kits

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In populations with men at high-risk of HIV infection, advertising free HIV self-test kits on dating apps may be a feasible way of testing these individuals, according to new research published in the journal Sexual Health.

Researchers focused their study in Los Angeles, where black and Latino men who have sex with men are four times more likely than white men who have sex with men to not know they are infected with HIV.

To determine the efficacy of distributing HIV self-test kits, researchers advertised them using banner ads on a popular gay social networking app Grindr for one month. Advertisements were directed toward the high-risk HIV population.

Visitors could either receive a kit in the mail, a voucher to redeem for a kit at a pharmacy or a code that produced a kit from a vending machine at the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center, according to the New York Times.

The study produced 333 requests for the self-test kits, 74 percent of which requested mailed tests, 17 percent for vouchers and 8 percent for the vending machine.

Eligible participants were invited to take a survey after receiving the tests. Of those that participated, 9 percent said they had never previously been tested for HIV.

Researchers concluded it is feasible to use Grindr to distribute HIV self-test kits. "Users are willing to provide personal information in exchange for a free self-test and found self-tests acceptable and easy to use," they wrote. "HIV self-testing promotion through apps has a high potential to reach untested high-risk populations."

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