OWNERS PARTNER WITH PUBLIC HEALTH OFFICIALS TO BUILD HEALTHIER ONLINE COMMUNITIES
SAN FRANCISCO, October 22, 2014?At a ground-breaking meeting with public health leaders, representatives of seven of the most popular gay dating websites and apps committed to taking steps to promote HIV/STI testing and reduce stigma associated with HIV infection. San Francisco AIDS Foundation, in collaboration with amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, released a report today detailing recommendations and next steps generated at the first-of-its-kind summit.
?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.
?These sites and apps have an immense reach and they want to work closely with public health to learn how they can contribute to prevention efforts,? said University of California, San Francisco researcher Dan Wohlfeiler, one of the meeting?s organizers. ?They?re demonstrating their corporate responsibility.?
Site and app owners committed to actions to promote healthier engagement. These include:
- Promote HIV/STI testing. Site and app owners will identify innovative ways to encourage users to get tested for HIV and sexually-transmitted infections regularly.
- Reduce stigma associated with HIV infection. Users commonly disclose their HIV-negative status or preference for HIV-negative partners in ways that perpetuate stigma and shame. In order to support healthy environments for all users, sites can proactively encourage users to select among optional, stigma-free profile options to communicate HIV status such as ?positive,? ?undetectable,? or ?negative as of? with a date of the users last HIV test, or partner preferences such as ?HIV-neutral,? or ?Poz-friendly.?
- Collaborate with public health leaders to disseminate updated information. Owners can share information with users about disease outbreaks and new HIV prevention tools, such as PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis, which are medications that can be taken regularly to prevent HIV infection), as well as new testing technologies.
?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.?
Gay dating websites and apps now claim a combined audience of tens of million users globally and some estimates indicate that 3 in 5 men meet their partners online. Representatives from BarebackRT, Daddyhunt, Dudesnude, Gay.com, Grindr, PozPersonals, and SCRUFF participated in the two-day meeting in early September. Bigmuscle as well as two other sites are eager to join the effort but were unable to attend the meeting. Public health organizations represented at the meeting included AIDS United, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Alliance for State and Territorial AIDS Directors, National Coalition for STD Directors, and Project Inform.
Currently 1.1 million Americans are living with HIV and an estimated 50,000 are newly infected each year. Collaborations between public health leaders, community-based organizations, and gay dating sites and apps offer a novel and potentially effective approach to promoting health at a time when the impact of traditional media is waning and need for testing and education is growing. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released data showing that, while gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (MSM) make up 2 percent of the U.S. population, they represented 63 percent of those newly infected with HIV in 2010. Findings from a Kaiser Family Foundation survey released last month show that, while HIV remains the top health issue among gay and bisexual men, only 3 in 10 say they were tested for HIV within the last year.
The full report can be downloaded at http://bit.ly/HealthyOnlineCommunities.
About San Francisco AIDS Foundation
No city experienced epidemic levels of HIV faster than San Francisco. At San Francisco AIDS Foundation, we work to end the epidemic where it first took hold, and eventually everywhere. Established in 1982, our mission is the radical reduction of new infections in San Francisco. Through education, advocacy, and direct services for prevention and care, we are confronting HIV in communities most vulnerable to the disease. We refuse to accept that HIV transmission is inevitable. More information about the foundation is available at http://www.sfaf.org.
About amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research
Founded in 1985, amfAR is dedicated to ending the global AIDS epidemic through innovative research. With the freedom and flexibility to respond quickly to emerging areas of scientific promise, amfAR plays a catalytic role in accelerating the pace of HIV/AIDS research and achieving real breakthroughs. amfAR-funded research has increased our understanding of HIV and has helped lay the groundwork for major advances in the study and treatment of HIV/AIDS. Since 1985, amfAR has invested more than $388 million in its programs and has awarded more than 3,300 grants to research teams worldwide.