A recently published study by Hunter College’s Center for HIV Educational Studies and Training (CHEST) found that 10% of men on Grindr have never gotten tested for HIV, though nearly a third of them still claim they’re negative.
“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 realized we needed to look further into the issue,” said Jon Rendina, lead author of Patterns of Lifetime and Recent HIV Testing Among Men Who Have Sex with Men in New York City, which first appeared in this August’s online issue of AIDS and Behavior.
According to the research, the proportion of older men getting tested for HIV was notably higher than that of younger men, with 1 in 5 young men who have sex with men (MSM) between the ages of 18-24 having never received an HIV test. Compared to the overall MSM population of NYC, a higher proportion of men on Grindr had never been tested for the disease — 10% of Grindr users versus 2.6% of all NYC MSM.
Additional analyses revealed that one-third of those men who had never received an HIV test reported their HIV status as negative, which as Rendina points out, “may mean that men are sharing potentially inaccurate HIV status information with their partners on Grindr.” Furthermore, nearly one-third of the men who had never been tested also reported engaging in anal sex without a condom in the past three months.
On the brighter side of things, half of all surveyed Grindr users had received an HIV test in the past six months, with over 70% of them having been tested in the past year. Only 52% of all MSM in NYC reported receiving an HIV-test in the past year. The data suggests that men who engage in risky sexual behavior have an awareness of increased risk for HIV infection and get tested more recently than men who practice safer sex.
A higher proportion of younger men of color reported getting tested compared to other men in the sample, a product, Rendina says, of the effectiveness of community-based efforts to provide HIV testing to a population particularly susceptible to infection. The study concludes that social networking apps like Grindr can be used to promote the importance of HIV testing, thus aiding in future prevention efforts.
“These findings suggest that some prevention messages — specifically that MSM that engage in unprotected sex should have more frequent HIV testing — are reaching the intended audience,” Rendina said. “It’s our hope that these data highlight the importance of embedding HIV testing and other prevention campaigns where men who have sex with men network, socialize, and express their sexuality, such as Grindr.”