Hornet Takes A Bold Step In Combating HIV Stigma And Promoting Education

Hornet-app-ChinaHookup app Hornet is introducing a new set of features in the hopes of making everyone’s extracurricular activities a little more safe. Now, users have the option to disclose if they are taking PrEP HIV prevention medication or if they are positive and have an undetectable viral load.

Sure beats that problematic question — “Are you clean?”

Users will be able to select under “status” either “Positive: Undetectable,” and “Negative: On PrEP” in addition to the preexisting options.

Also, to help users who are positive Hornet is launching a community for poz men to meet each other. Their hope is to raise awareness and education of HIV to those who need it most: the gay men around the world meeting through the app.

HIV infections are rising among gay men, especially younger ones. In the US, 20 percent of gay and bisexual men are estimated to be living with HIV, yet a recent study found 44 percent of the men under the age of 35 said they had never been tested for HIV.

Hornet CEO, Sean Howell said, “We are committed to looking for ways to eliminate stigma about this disease and to share the latest health facts on preventing HIV and empowering those living with HIV better options for self-expression. With our global reach, we can really make a difference.”

Howell continued, “In planning all of these changes we were shocked when we surveyed a sample of our members about their lack of understanding of either of these options. In fact, nearly all guys told us they had to search online to find out what these meant before they could answer our questions. Having done so, a clear majority felt these new options were important and should be added to the app.”

All of these improvements are in addition to the existing features which include reminders to get tested every 6 months, and the zip code lookup for finding an HIV test center.

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  • frshmn

    20% of gay/bi men in the US are HIV+? I don’t believe it.

  • onthemark

    The new options are a good idea. Never heard of this app til recently when I heard someone mention it, and I thought he was saying – LOL.

    @frshmn: Do you think it’s too high or too low?

  • Austin77

    CDC numbers (here: say there were ~1.2m people (over the age of 13) living with HIV in the US in 2010 and approximately half of all HIV infections were for men who have sex with men (MSM). If MSM makes up ~7% of the US population and there are ~200m people over the age of 13, that would put MSM at ~7m (7% of half of 200m, to account for gender).

    Which means the infection rate would be about 9% (~600k out of 7m). Now, not all MSM identify as gay or bisexual, and the rate could be less or more than 7%. But a number of 20% isn’t unrealistic, albeit probably a bit high.

  • Merv

    I don’t care if they call it destigmatizing HIV or not, it’s a welcome step toward a rational treatment of HIV prevention. The best part is that it clearly rejects the developing orthodoxy put forward by HIV activists that only HIV- people have a responsibility to prevent the spread of HIV, and that HIV+ people are entitled to knowingly spread the virus with a clear conscience if it spares them the embarrassment of disclosure. Clearly, testing, disclosure, and sero-sorting are a central part of the HIV prevention equation. One weakness I see is that it seems to rely exclusively on the honor system. Home testing kits can provide one method of verification, albeit not as accurate as laboratory tests. It would be nice if there were a more official system available to allow potential partners to quickly and easily confirm lab results with a trusted third party. Safe sex practices would obviously still be necessary, but wouldn’t be the only form of protection.

  • Austin77

    “It would be nice if there were a more official system available to allow potential partners to quickly and easily confirm lab results with a trusted third party.”

    Hi, there’s this thing called HIPAA that you might want to look into. Because anything that discloses or reveals HIV status would be a major, major violation of personal privacy.

    Additionally, no such tool would be useful except in cases of positives: basically, having a negative test on record means nothing other than you tested negative at that time. You could have either had undetectable levels then or been infected since then. So, frankly, no archive of test results is all that useful except to report who has tested positive (since, for the moment, being positive once means being positive always).

    The only effective method is assuming everyone you have sex with is HIV+ unless you have extreme reasons to trust them (and even then, it’s doesn’t hurt to make the same assumption).

  • Merv

    @Austin77: Gee, I’ve never heard of HIPAA. Is that one of those big African river animals? Seriously, where did I imply that I was proposing unauthorized disclosure? I was clearly advocating a trusted system for authorized disclosure to third parties. Tax returns are also private, but the IRS provides a system for authorized disclosure, for example when seeking a mortgage.

    I’m really tired of this absurd claim that, because testing does not provide perfect protection, that it has no value. Is there any other safety measure that we hold to such impossibly high standards? Seat belts do not offer 100% protection, but we all acknowledge their effectiveness. Condoms aren’t perfect either, I might add. HIV testing has its limitations, but it’s still a very very useful way to help protect yourself from HIV. If someone tested negative a month ago, then, at least in regards to HIV, you can be much less concerned with their sex history prior to a few months ago, making it much easier to make an informed and rational decision about sex. That doesn’t mean deciding whether or not to bareback, but deciding whether or not to have sex at all, even with a condom (like I said, condoms aren’t 100%). Widespread insistence on knowing a partner’s test results has the added advantage of providing an incentive for those people who never get tested to finally get tested, with obvious benefits to that person and HIV prevention in general.

    You’re right that you can’t necessarily trust a potential partner’s self-reporting of HIV test status, which is why I advocate a system for trusted disclosure of test results, and for home testing in the presence of your partner.

  • scott63

    Y’all seem to be missing the point here. What this article failed to emphasize is the significance of PrEP and Undetectable. Both make it impossible to transmit HIV (OK bring it on about the 96% efficacy, those are hedged by statistical CI’s) HIV is being spread by MSM in acute and early infection who do not know they are POZ yet. Sero sorting is the worst bet you can make. Fear of a life with HIV keeps people from testing. I mean how many guys look forward to that nerve racking roller coaster? But at the end of the day there has to be a new approach. Normalize HIV. It is a STI, nobody wants it. But if you get it catch it early, get on meds and stay compliant, it is no big deal! Just a pill a day and life goes on. Wow that’s not PC to say but it is true. If people weren’t so terrified of testing, and fearing HIV as some horrible life destroying disease then this thing would b over in a few years.

  • Merv

    @scott63: How would making sure everyone got HIV cause it to be over in a few years? That makes no sense.

  • scott63

    @Merv Hiv is most fit for forward transmission in acute and early infection. People don’t like testing because Hiv is “horrible”. So they wait. 2 things happen, 1 they infect other people, and 2 they wait too long to start treatment. Most people are diagnosed and start treatment with CD4 counts below 500. Starting meds, and staying compliant, b4 too much damage is done, means a normal life. So the fear of HIV results in two very bad outcomes, more forward transmission and sicker than need be poz guys. Test and treat early, like when u get that really bad flu you would rather ignore, plus PrEP and it would b over.

  • Merv

    @scott63: That’s all well and good, but it doesn’t make serosorting bad. Serosorting isn’t (just) about HIV- people avoiding sex with known HIV+ status, but with anyone who is never tested, hasn’t tested recently, who has questionable history since sometime before the last test, or is questionable at all. Sure, that might mean that some occasional unlucky person might very occasionally have an encounter with someone with increased viral load, but the vast majority of the time it would mean their partner has no HIV at all. That’s as opposed to the alternative of approximately 20% of partners having HIV, and probably much more in some populations. In either case, you would always use condoms.

    Even if your goal is to have as many people as possible tested and undergoing treatment, then serosorting is still better than a pie-in-the-sky “remove the stigma” strategy, which is not going to happen anytime soon, if ever. People who don’t get tested are in denial. In their state of denial, they have no incentive to get tested if they’re still getting sex. If their refusal to get tested starts affecting their ability to get sex, then they’ll reluctantly be forced to get tested, denial or not. If you’ve looked at Hornet, you’ll immediately notice that pretty much every profile has HIV status and test date prominently displayed. Profiles without this information stick out like a sore thumb. I think it’s a great innovation among these types of apps. Hornet may call it destigmatizing HIV, but its really about facilitating serosorting, and is long overdue.

  • scott63

    @Merv Akin to looking backwards thru a telescope…serosorting is not “bad”, it just provides a false sense of security.

    It just means you are relying on someone’s truthful representation of their risk. Hiv test, with the exception of the early test, will read negative when the person is absolutely at the most infectious stage they will ever b. More infectious than they would b on their deathbed from uncontrolled AIDS killing them. These are the facts, it is estimated up to 75% of forward transmission is occurring in acute and early infection before the person knows they are positive. Stop and think about it. You can both sit down and take an oraquick take home test together and assure your selves you are indeed negative. The test just means at some point 2 to 4 weeks prior you were negative and most likely you are indeed negative… or perhaps in that time frame one of you sero-converted. If that is the case the viral loads will be in the millions of copies per ml and forward transmission will very likely occur hence the source of 75% of new infections.

    Now on to the poz population. Only 30% are virally supressed, a depressing statistic. There are various socioeconomic reasons for this beyond the scope of this discussion. The 30% that are virally suppressed and compliant are non infectious and are the safest fucks besides guys on PrEP (Google partner study) That is the reason hornet A4A, BBRT and others put the undetectable tag out there.

    Tough decision…a guy who says he is negative and most likely is or a undetectable poz or guy on prep. Most guys will choose the former based on emotions. Unfortunately research shows the latter is much safer and the former is the source of 3/4 of new infections.

    And lastly the good Ole condom. Unfortunately compliance is not 100% and without 100% compliance it is statistically 100% useless per the CDC! Google dawn smith condom efficacy.

  • Merv

    “Unfortunately compliance is not 100% and without 100% compliance it is statistically 100% useless per the CDC!”

    I know you’re trying to emphasize the importance of condoms, but I would revisit the wording of this slogan, because, if taken literally, it would be telling people never again to bother with condoms if they slip up even just once.

    “Unfortunately research shows the latter is much safer and the former is the source of 3/4 of new infections.”

    You have a point if we’re talking about the promiscuous barebacking crowd, which admittedly is depressingly predominant. Frankly, I think those people have a deathwish and PrEP might be the only hope for them. For those who are responsible, relationship-oriented, get tested, and use condoms, serosorting is the best bet. Just saying that you insist on Oraquick will scare away most of the liars and those in denial about their high risk behavior. Responsible people also wouldn’t have anal sex with someone they just met.

    • scott63

      Fair point. Condoms have been instrumental in reducing the spread of this disease for 30 years. It hasn’t stopped it, just reduced it. The same CDC showed only 70% efficacy when used consistenly and unfortunately studies show they are not anymore. PrEP is showing almost 100% effectiveness evendors used intermittently!

      The second point is a bit more judgemental. Sure the sterotypical poz guy is a tweaking methhead PNP emotionally stunted loser, because it reinforces the belief that it could never happen to you. However, the world is seldom that black and white. Love, infatuation, passion, loneliness, can all come into play one evening and that bulwark defense goes down. HIV doesn’t discriminate and there are multitudes of stories of one mistake, one broken condom, one cheating spouse. The end result is a world full of fantastic athletic healthy happy intelligent successful poz guys that were just unlucky. They manage the condition stay linked to care are compliant and proudly undetectable. They are noninfectious…why do we want to continue to judge and stigmatize them?

  • Merv

    @scott63: Stigma is underrated. If done right, it can work (drunk driving and smoking, e.g.). Of course, stigmatizing the HIV+ person misses the point. Most of the stigma should be reserved for people who continue to engage in reckless sexual behavior.

    The main problem I have with PrEP is its expense, even if that expense isn’t felt by the end-user. Yes, I know that HIV is even more expensive, but the prospect of spending billions just because people can’t control themselves bothers me. I understand that patent expiration will make it much cheaper in a few years.

  • scott63

    PrEP…now everyone can be part of the Hiv drug compliance experience!

    It is not for everyone. However for the guys that it isn’t for, test regularly. Hiv can b very sneaky even when you practice 100% safe sex. Everyone, once diagnosed, can become undetectable with the modern drug regimens. Damage to the immune system can not be repaired. Nadir cd4> 500 life is good. Between 350 and 500 cornary and other organ risk are increased. Between 200 to 350 non aids defining cancers greatly increased. Less than 200 prognosis not good. Recent studies from Europe show Hiv is getting more virulent quicker. Ignoring it changes nothing, just makes life with Hiv harder. Moral of this tale…catch it early and treat, it is no big deal, wait and it will fuck u up.

  • Clark35

    This is pointless.

    People who take PrEP think that the meds make it so they can have all the bareback sex they want, and they won’t get HIV but that’s not true. The side effects from HIV meds are not always apparently pleasant either.

    There are some people who think that “undetectable” means “HIV neg” when it does not.

    Then you have fools who are already HIV+ and they think they can take HIV meds, not practice safer sex, and won’t get infected with other strains of HIV or get reinfected but that’s not true either.

    It’s best just to assume all the people who you have sex with regardless of their gender are or could be HIV+ and just use condoms, and practice safer sex.

  • Clark35

    @Scott63-Obviously you don’t know anyone who has HIV.

    It’s not as you claim, “Just one pill a day and you go on”.

    A lot of people have been infected because they think that taking PrEP works completely all the time, and that “undetectable”=HIV neg.

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