Should Online Hook-Ups Sites Take Responsibility For Spreading HIV And STIs?

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

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  • EdWoody

    Yes, I agree with all of those. I don’t believe hookup sites should be “blamed” for spreading STDs, but I do believe they should be doing everything in their power to convince their users to avoid doing so.

    The safe sex drive has obviously faltered in recent years. When I was growing up it was rammed down your throat (if you’ll pardon the expression) to the extent that no person even considered the possibility of not using a condom. And quite rightly so.

    Unfortunately now it seems to be the opposite – as if it’s “oppressing someone’s rights” to insist that they have safe sex. With the reprehensible rise in bareback porn and the lack of good education on gay sex and this bizarre idea that catching HIV is no big deal anymore… well, you only need to look at the infection rate statistics to see how well that’s working.

  • Little Kiwi

    I’ve been a sexually-active gay male for more than a decade. I’ve had hookups. I’m on Grindr. Wanna know how many times I’ve had sex without a condom? 0.00.

    yeah. zero point zero-zero.

    you can’t blame hookups sites. you can’t even blame bareback porn. that said, i think bareback porn should be more fucking honest – the majority of bareback porno sites involve men who are Poz. they should say so. stop creating the illusion that it’s HIV-negative bareback porn. most of it isn’t, and i say this as someone who has friends in that industry so I actually know what the fuck i’m talking about

    yeah. enjoy your bare porn. and be aware that the men in the videos are HIV positive.

    but to blame hookup sits? bollocks. i’m an intelligent adult who knows the risks. i’ve never NOT used a condom.

  • Sebastian

    The asnwer is NO! People need to responsibalize themselves first and foermost. These sites do not have any responsability to wether or not I decide to have unprotected or safe sex. That is my responsability. I know what is out there and I know how to protect myself. Yes there is always that possibility that I may become infected, but then again I could always get hit by a bus crossing the street. That won’t make my not cross the street….I look both ways! Same goes for sex. I do not engage in certain sexual acts because of certain risk factors involved but I have, do and will have sex. I choose to have sex with only men who will protect themselves. NO GLOVE, NO LOVE simple as that!

  • Joe

    Why can’t people take responsability for themselves? Are we all children?

  • Fitz

    Yes, and the waiter should weigh you before allowing to order the french fries.

    I’m responsible for me.

  • mike

    to use the cliche’ … some of these are excellent ideas, and any sites adopting these ideas should be applauded, but … what a slippery slope!

    does this mean NY’s hottest clubs, bars, and restaurants … (which cater to couples, singles, straights, gays, unicorns, disco elves, cross-dressing pandas, and accordianists … oh Stefon, where are you when we need you?) … need to invest the equivalent cost/effort in order to take responsibility for alcoholism, drunk driving, date rape, transmission of herpes and other STDs, bad sex, and tramp-stamps?

    there comes a moment when people need to take responsibility for their own actions.

  • Maddie

    Bad Dirty work

  • the crustybastard

    Mods, can you do something about “Maddie,” the semiliterate homophobe?

    It was funny the first time. Now it just shits in every thread.

  • Little Kiwi

    i once had a hook-up after i went to a united church service in NYC.

    made eyes with a cutie in the pews. chatted. had sex. used a condom. but hey, we still hooked up.

    should churches also be blamed since, apparently, one can hook up from church


  • Equalitydecrypted

    YES, and while we are at it. We should hold car companys responsible for all auto accidents that occur due to excessive speeds because they make cars that excellerate past the local legal speed limit in states where the accidents happen. #sarcasm

  • twinkbaiter

    I think grindr should be blamed for general douchiness, and an alarming upswing in iPhone pictures in which the actual iPhone is strategically blocking the user’s face. and possibly the east coast earthquake.

    but generally, dickfindr apps should not be blamed for encouraging spread of STIs. IMHO, they could all cheaply and easily point you to the nearest STI treatment location, which are better equipped to educate the unwashed masses on STI prevention.

  • Maddie

    What your say? I want to say I like writing my opinion in All the pages

  • Maddie

    @The crustybastard: omg why your jealous just bcoz i’m every time in here? Ok don’t cry baby

  • Maddie

    @The crustybastard: maybe your All the time shits bcoz im here hahahahahahahahahahaha

  • D Gregory Smith

    The research is there- The question is, “Will these companies show they care about the health of the people who use them, or are they just making easy money?”

    Believe me, I would love to be surprised.

  • Z

    How dare those companies want to be profitable!

  • D Gregory Smith

    The research is there. The question is, “Will these companies show they care about the health of the people who use them, or are they just making easy money?”

    Believe me, I would love to be surprised.

  • Spike

    Smells of pc gays trying to cover up the actions, behavior and personal choices of irresponsible gays. Yet again.

  • jason

    Maybe if you stopped being promiscuous, it would be better. In fact, if you stopped being promiscuous little shits you might not get the diseases that are rampant amongst those who fuck like alley cats on Spanish Fly.

    Face it – you are immersed in a culture of promiscuity. The male side of the GBT movement is a cesspool of sexual promotion. Your movement is built on a sex act. It used to be a good movement based on rights but now you’ve gone and tarnished it beyond repair.

  • nefter hoffman

    ewww at Jason #20..seriously ewww. you are so gross..that’s all I can say, clearly anything else would just be bait for a pointless argument with a damaged and angry person. Tell you what, why don’t you show us how not to be promiscuous and go f#*k yourself.

  • JayKay

    Did you get infected with HIV after your random hook-up?

    Well it’s the government’s fault for inventing it, the white man’s fault for ignoring it, society’s fault for not doing enough to stop it, the state’s fault for not putting baskets of free condoms on every street corner, and the hook-up site’s fault for not preventing you from catching it. You have no responsibility in the matter whatsoever, you poor thing.

  • Alan

    I think the safe sex option is a quick and easy fix that won’t cost any money to implement. Hook-up sites can include a special membership option for people who want to help fund changes to the site.

  • MadHatter

    I think as these websites currently operate, their is no duty to address the threat(s) posed by unscrupulous behavior between two individuals. A legislature could, in theory, pass a law saying that websites operating as places to “connect” or “meet men” have a duty to reasonably inform their users of the dangers posed by unsafe sex. The same way we require sex-ed to be taught in classrooms… on public policy grounds.

    I would go a step further and say that in order to create a profile on any of these sites, a person should have to watch a 3-5 minute video describing sex safe techniques like: “If you’re going to play, play safe” or “How to put on a condom” And/or require users to watch ads designed to encourage safe sex, and perhaps deal with myths regarding HIV like: “Can I get HIV from oral sex?” or “How often should I be tested?” And/or provide links to testing facilities and charitable organizations that help those infected with HIV. We could ask some of our hottest, most sexually active porn stars to film mini-documentaries addressing the topic of safe, sober, and responsible sex – then show them on websites that exist for finding potential sexual (or relationship) partners.

    One of the biggest problems I’ve noticed while reading a lot of the social / psychological studies regarding sex and the internet is the notion that the sole responsibility rests with the participants and a general feeling of inevitability amongst those most-active sexually with becoming HIV positive. Much of the respondents’ testimonials in serious research allude to the idea that to remain negative for a long time requires one to be asexual, or sexually active on rare occasion and after much contemplation. That’s ridiculous. A person can have as much as (safe) sex as they want, and not become infected. The point is it’s not how much sex, but what kind of sex, a person is having. The idea that “if you want to have sex often, then you’re probably going to end up positive” is a ridiculous misconception that none of the most-popular hook-up websites seem to address.

    I am also for a law that would require all condom-less pornography to state, before each scene, that the models are engaging in “high-risk, potentially health-hazardous behavior that should only be engaged in following HIV testing,” and that all the models depicted were HIV negative at the time of shooting. If public policy allows us to require proof of (18+) age be on file with the studio, then public policy should be created to require sero-status health records to be held, privately, by the studios that produce condom-less pornography. If a performer does not want to reveal their sero-status to a porn studio, then they should accept performing with a condom, or leave the industry. This would chase some of the most vile and illicit types of porn out of mainstream; and for those promulgating bareback porn that break the law, jail or a large fine would be in order. The threat to young LGBT youth seeing bareback sex depicted blatantly and un-apologetically is greater than the burden(s) imposed by regulation of the gay porn industry.

    These websites could be doing so much more to encourage personal responsibility. To collectively throw our hands up and say “websites don’t even have to bother with education, since it’s all about personal responsibility” is admitting defeat in a community-wide crusade against the disease(s) that pose a threat to our community. Their may not, yet, be a law requiring websites to demonstrate these kinds of corporate responsibility, but it is not unreasonable to expect and/or ask websites to be pro-active in encouraging personal responsibility, particularly among LGBT youth. It’s the very least they could do. And right now, websites are doing less than the very least they could do; and that’s unacceptable to me.

  • Maddie

    @Nefter hoffman: your bad person go go go sleep

  • Sebastian

    @Maddie, are you like ten? Are you not english american? or are you just drunk because your english is so slurly like when a drunk guy speaks? WTF and don’t bother to answer me you sound too stupid and moronic to have a conversation with.

  • Maddie

    Yep bcoz Your Crazy angry hahahahahah i’m not American i’m from Germany and go away don’t come here again okkk

  • Jake helping

    @ maddie: your really funny. i agree with you.

  • Ian

    @jason: Hey Jason, go fuck yourself.

  • Yob


  • Sebastian

    @ Ian….I agree and @ Jason WTF?

  • Thomas

    Lol @ a guy named Christian on a gay hook-up site.

  • Fodolodo

    Better question: should online hook-up sites take a few simple steps that plausibly could reduce the spread of HIV and other STIs? The answer, obviously, is “yes.”

  • jebb

    Living with Herpes is really hard, especially when you are a single. According to a report from the largest Herpes singles dating site, 98% of its members who used to be on a general dating site to find the love and support were rejected by others. That could be the reason that why is so popular and now has more than 560,000 members.

  • 2+2chan

    @Joe: “Why can’t people take responsability for themselves? Are we all children?” If people were more responsible, then transmission rates would be lower.

  • Dumbasses

    After you and mommy get back from the bathroom, I’ll tell you all about how grown ass people are responsible for themselves. When you purchase a car, should the dealer be required to tell you about the dangers of driving carelessly while intoxicated? No? Why not? Same situation. Grow up, children.

  • Lefty

    @Dumbasses: What if a car dealer opens up a car lot opposite a gay bar and offers a free case of scotch and a male whore to anyone who buys a car after 11pm on a Saturday night????

  • jason

    nefter hoffman,

    I don’t resile one iota from what I said. Not one iota.

    The gay male scene IS a cesspool of sexualized promotions. Don’t deny it. It is worse than the hetero scene in this regard because the hetero scene is at least moderated by the lower sexual drive of women relative to men.

    If you want to go ahead and call me names, knock yourself out.

  • xander

    Having a ‘safe sex’ option to tick on profiles would be a relatively inexpensive way to allow people to identify who they’re looking for. I grant that the term means different things to different people, but it at least starts the ‘conversation’ once two individuals pursue hooking up.

    As to ‘personal responsibility’, I’m afraid that its becoming a quaint notion in too many circles.

  • WillBFair

    Hell yes the sites are responsible, just as we all are responsible for laying down the law on safer sex.
    This ‘everyone is responsible for himself’ meme is utter bull—-. Sounds like the GOP’s ‘I’ve got mine’ refrain. But it’s really another version of the ‘hump everything that moves’ meme of the 80s, so that we didn’t impose on anyone’s ‘freedom.’ Please. There’s always some new way to rationalize our subconcious contempt for the community.
    Guess what. There are weak men in the world, ignorant men, drunk men, men with low self esteem, uncaring men, sadistic men, etc… If this is a community, we are all responsible for each other. Period. We’re especially responsible to mentor people in their twenties and those with low self esteem.
    But of course, taking responsiblity for others is actual work, which doesn’t fly well with the self involved crowd.

  • robco

    A4A already allows you to filter based on safe sex or not, as does Manhunt. GRINDR isn’t explicitly a sexual hook-up app (Apple wouldn’t allow it otherwise).

    The thing is that prevention has been done and done and done. Want pr0n actors making education vids? Here’s Matthew Rush and Brent Corrigan showing you how – In most areas, you’d have to live under a rock not to know that unprotected sex is risky. But people do it anyway. So most organizations are switching from prevention measures to treatment.

    We are adults and ultimately responsible for our own actions and well-being. It’s up to us to assess the risks and determine if we want to take those risks or not. It’s not up to the feds, the state, hook-up sites, bars, clubs, bathhouses, pr0n theaters, etc. They can educate, they can put out all the condoms and lube they want, but they can’t make people put them on before they fuck. People are still going to bareback, do drugs, drink too much, smoke, eat unhealthy food and a host of other dangerous things. That is their choice. Constantly trying to mother them only makes the situation worse, not better.

  • Seaguy

    Seems like someone is always trying to find something to blame for the spread for STD’s and HIV, be it bareback porn, or hookup sites. But the only one to blame is ourselves. Anyone who does not get tested, educate themselves and use that knowledge to protect themselves in the end only has themselves to blame. With the internet, and prevalence of confidential testing there is no excuse, or other person or thing to blame.

  • WillBFair

    @robco: Actually, adults set standards in their community. It’s children who are totally self involved and only look after themselves.
    ‘People do it anyway’ because our community make endless excuses for them.
    And prevention has not been ‘done and done and done.’ At the start, the party line was that we should just keep f——- as if nothing was wrong. Then it was every man for himself, which is what the people here are still saying.
    Thanks a heap. It’s only been thrity years, and I needed to hear another round of bull—- excuses.

  • damon459

    wow really as adults we can’t take responsibility for our own actions? You might as well go after gay bars, bathhouses, and porn shops too. If in the year 2011 you don’t know that condoms can protect you from std’s you’ve been living under a rock since the 80’s. This makes about as much sense as blaming jack daniels for not telling you drinking my cause liver cirrhosis.

  • Haightmale

    I think the biggest mistake that online sex sites make is ask whether someone is negative or positive. Aside from violating privacy laws, that benign act has stopped people from talking about HIV. You have kids on one side who have no idea how horrific the virus is, and you have people who0 believe any port in a storm.

    All of those things described above are already a part of the prevention program in San Francisco, because we have UCSF and a liberal health department. The first way to tackle the problem is to make people ask someone, while looking them in the eye, about their sero status. Maybe people will start speaking with each other in the community again.

  • robco

    @WillBFair: How exactly do you want me to look after them? Are we to have a chaperone every time we fuck now? The information is out there. Condoms are widely available. We’ve had just about every educational campaign out there and we’re still the leading demographic for new infections. As with any health issue, education and resources can be provided, but individuals will ultimately make their own choices. You’re physician can tell you how to be healthy, prescribe treatments and such, but if you don’t follow their advice, you won’t benefit.

    So you’re right, I generally don’t give people lectures about barebacking. I also don’t give them lectures about eating junk food, not exercising (are we going after the bear community next for promoting an unhealthy lifestyle?), smoking, etc. They know these things are bad for them. They choose to do them anyway. I don’t see how condescension from me is going to help.

    Some want government to step in and protect us from ourselves. I would rather be empowered to make my own decisions, even if that means unpleasant consequences. There are plenty of people who engage in unprotected sex, while sober, knowing the potential consequences. What do you propose to do about them?

Comments are closed.