Risky Business

Is Hornet The Hookup App With A Conscience?

gastongrindr2Good news, sluts! Social friend-making apps are making it easier to make informed decisions and arrange safe sexual trysts.

Case in point: Hornet, which just added a little tool to help you find HIV testing centers near you. The widget appears at the top of your “favorites” list, and looks just like another user’s profile. Open a chat and type “info” to get info about PrEP, the drug regimen that can prevent HIV transmission. And type “find” to locate a testing center.

The tool works anywhere in the United States, and Hornet is working with health agencies to open it up to other countries. The popular app’s attention to stopping the spread of HIV doesn’t end there: if you get tested, you can add a “Know Your Status” badge to your profile. The badge stays active if you’re poz, or until you’re due for your next test.

The timing could not be better for this feature. Transmission rates among young gay men more than doubled from 2002 to 2011, even as it declined among groups like women, people of color, and injection drug users.

Hornet isn’t the only sexytime app with helpful advice. Tinder users might also encounter some health tips from a profile known as “Nurse Nicole.” But this isn’t an officially-sanctioned account; it’s the work of two advertising students who just want to encourage men to see a doctor regularly. The students are enduring painful pickup lines (such as an offer to take Nurse Nicole out to Applebee’s) in order to encourage strangers to get their balls checked for cancer.

Health county officials in San Mateo did the same thing on Grindr: they created fake profiles to urge users to get tested.

And in an official capacity, Grindr has started educating users about PrEP.

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  • Haightmale

    While I laud Hornet’s efforts to encourage HIV testing, while recommending PrEP, in reality it’s a marketing campaign to promote the use of the app. Before the advent of apps like Grindr, Scruff, and Hornet, and prior to widespread access to the internet and the proliferation of hook up sites, gay men had discussions about sero status. We were comfortable talking about sex and asked potential sex partners about their sex practices. Once the hook up sights became ubiquitous, where they asked individuals to check a box indicating their hiv status, those discussions largely stopped. Considering that the CDC estimates that nearly 20% of people who are HIV positive don’t know it, I have to say that I think efforts like Hornet’s is ridiculous. It’s going to further marginalize people that are hiv+, and people will continue to rely on what they see in a profile. We should demand that these sites STOP asking about hiv status, to spur discussions. That would be empowering. Otherwise it’s more of the same bullshit.

    Roy Steele

  • Ms Urethra Johnson

    “Hook up SITES”

  • LiamCregg

    Has anyone noticed that ‘PrEP’ is made by a pharma company using a biblical name?

  • mgad

    @Haightmale: I disagree with your premise that people will ask if it isn’t posted as a status. I also think the get tested sticker on a profile will serve as a nice reminder and will take just having a status and give people an idea of how recently.

  • vive

    @Haightmale, your argument for people not talking about status would make sense if the two main hookup apps, Grindr and Scruff, did indeed have an HIV status checkbox. But neither does.

  • DonW

    @Ms Urethra Johnson: As long as you’re nitpicking, it’s “hook-up (or hookup) sites.” “Hook up” (without a hyphen) is a verb.

  • DonW

    @Haightmale: I’m fine with this. Better for apps to encourage testing for marketing purposes than not at all.

    I’ve never used Grindr, but Scruff’s “health resources” tab is a pathetic joke — it’s just a random list of web links to organizations like the National Institutes of Health, buried under layers of menus. Scruff features plenty of pop-up ads for party promoters, so you’d think they could find a clever way to help counter the skyrocketing numbers of infections that modern hookup technology enables.

  • Jacob23

    Wow, this is great! When you go on your app to sort through digital pics of naked torsos to identify prospects for loveless, anonymous hookups, you can also get information on “Prep”, testing for a lethal retroviral infection and even consult with Nurse Nicole on the 20 other STIs for which you are at high risk! Cool!

    Another option: Don’t have the sex life of a feral dog. Live free of hookup app subscription fees, STIs, and Nurse Nicole.

    Sad to see Matt Baume pushing this garbage.

  • seaguy

    @Haightmale: They didn’t have those discussions when they hooked up in the bushes at the park or in the tea room at the office building and the apps have replaced much of that so the fact that they are also promoting testing is good maybe it will sink in to those who say they are negative but have not been tested in years and have avoided going back in for testing for whatever reason.

    They are a business so promoting the app whether this method or through other methods is something they are going to do choosing to do it in a way that is beneficial to the users is a good thing.

  • seaguy

    @Jacob23: Get off your high horse! Not everyone is little miss perfect like you seem to think you are.

  • seaguy

    @LiamCregg: From Wikpedia: The company’s name and logo refer to the Balm of Gilead. Gilead (a place mentioned in the Bible) was famed for its small trees that produced a resin used in medicine.

  • JDean

    yay PrEp, $1500 toxic drug that would destroy your liver in a few years.

    Guess everyone missed the Swiss HIV study that found the leading causes of death for HIV positives is cancer, and liver failure.

    • DonW

      @JDean: Do you have any evidence to back up your claim of “toxicity”? The participants the Swiss study (citation, please?) would not be on Truvada alone, since in HIV-positive patients it is used in combination with other drugs, unlike for PrEP.

      The thing about PrEP is: you do not have to take it for life. If there are intolerable side effects, you can stop. Once you are HIV-positive, you don’t have that option. Every new tool that can help prevent infections — including PrEP — is a welcome development. I just don’t understand the constant dwelling on worst-case scenarios.

Comments are closed.