The American Foundation for AIDS Research recently published a study entitled, “How Can We Improve HIV and STD Prevention Online for MSM (Men Who Have Sex with Men)?” They surveyed the owners of popular dating and “hook-up” websites, the websites’ users, and HIV and STD program directors to create a list of things sites could do to help reduce HIV and STIs among their members. They’re good all ideas, but who’s gonna float the bill?
The Bilerico Project‘s D Gregory Smith summarizes the survey’s key suggestions:
- Including “safe sex” as a profile option and allowing users to search for partners by such characteristics
- Providing directories of STD testing locations
- Sending automatic reminders to get an HIV or STD test at regular intervals chosen by users
- Having chat-rooms and other areas for HIV-positive men looking for other HIV-positive men
- Providing e-cards to notify partners of a potential exposure to STDs
- Posting videos that show men discussing safe sex, HIV status, and related issues
- Providing access to sexual health experts
The survey participants all agreed that these relatively simple changes could have a major impact on the spread of STDs, but any web developer knows that implementing such changes costs time and money, especially if they want these new features to work well. So should we expect websites to use their profits to implement these changes? After all, they’re the ones facilitating sexual behavior. Or should amfAR and other government health organizations help float the costs? It seems like they should if they really want the websites to comply.
Perhaps the best solution might be a joint venture in which each site pledges a certain dollar amount to help create a program branded consistently across all platforms but tailored to each site’s individual style. That way, gay/bisexual men can easily recognize the safe sex campaign featured on their favorite sites rather than having to choose between a bunch of small competitive programs that differ from site to site. By banding together, the websites would seem like the good guys for fighting STDs as a team and could even use the program to garner good press and sponsorship at HIV-related events—everyone wins!
But what we really wanna know is what the heck do these e-cards announcing that you may have given someone an STD look like? They better at least contain a 20-dollar bill inside for antibiotics.
Image via Zazzle