Opinion: We need to talk about how Grindr is affecting gay men’s mental health

I’m a gay psychiatrist. Here’s why I went on Grindr to survey men.

When I open the Grindr app on my smartphone, I see there’s a 26-year-old man with tanned abs just 200 feet away. He’s called “looking4now,” and his profile explains that he wants sex at his place as soon as possible.

Scrolling down, I find 100 similar profiles within a one-mile radius of my apartment in Boston. I can filter them by body type, sexual position (top, bottom, or versatile), and HIV status.

As a gay psychiatrist who studies gender and sexuality, I’m thrilled with the huge strides we’ve made over the past decade to bring gay relationships into the mainstream. The Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage is a constitutional right. Today in Boston, two men can walk down the street holding hands without consequence.

But I’m worried by the rise of the underground digital bathhouse. Apps like Grindr, with 3 million daily active users, and others like Scruff and Jack’d, are designed to help gay men solicit sex, often anonymously, online. I am all for sexual liberation, but I can’t stop wondering if these apps also have a negative effect on gay men’s mental health.

Since there’s little published research on the men using Grindr, I decided to conduct an informal survey and ask men why they’re on the app so much and how it’s affecting their relationships and mental health. I created a profile identifying myself as a medical writer looking to talk to men about their experiences. I received about 50 responses (including propositions).

It’s a small sample size, but enough to give us some clues about how Grindr is affecting gay men. And it doesn’t look good.

Read the full article on Vox.

Grindr app to offer H.I.V. test reminders

From New York Times Health

In an effort to shrink the global AIDS epidemic, the world’s largest gay dating app is changing its software this week to urge millions of users to get frequent H.I.V. tests.

Grindr, which claims to have 3.3 million daily users from every country in the world, will send men who opt into the service a reminder every three to six months, and simultaneously point them to the nearest testing site. It will also let clinics, gay community centers and other testing sites advertise for free.

The company is making the move to “reduce H.I.V. transmission and support our whole community — regardless of H.I.V. status — in living long and fulfilling lives,” said Jack Harrison-Quintana, Grindr’s director for equality.

H.I.V. experts greeted the announcement enthusiastically.

“Wow — that’s great!” said Dr. Jeffrey D. Klausner, a former chief of sexually transmitted disease prevention in San Francisco who has used Grindr to promote testing. “For a company of this magnitude to do this is groundbreaking.”

Perry N. Halkitis, dean of the Rutgers School of Public Health and an expert in gay male behavior, called the decision “excellent.”

Read the full article.

New app helps HIV-positive youth remember medication

From the Minnesota Daily

With widespread accessibility of mobile technology, researchers hope a new app may support the wellbeing of HIV-positive youth.

A study funded by the National Institutes for Health drew together faculty from across the country, including some from the University of Minnesota, to develop an app – called “Youth Thrive”. The app for mobile devices reminds HIV-positive youth to take their medications.

phone-app-for-hiv-pos-youthThe five-year study is in its earliest stages, and the team will spend the next year developing the app and getting feedback from youth before they launch it at the end of 2017, said Keith Horvath, community health and epidemiology professor at the University.

While the project officially started in July, Horvath said it took a few months to get moving. He said the NIH funded two other centers to research technology’s impact on slowing HIV’s spread.

The idea for the app stemmed from an earlier program for adult men living with HIV, he said.

The original app is already in the field and lets users talk to each other and access specific information about their situation. It also sends text message reminders to take medications.

“All of the studies use technology since we’re really a technology-based center,” Horvath said. “We’re trying to figure out how can we really leverage technologies for youth either who are living with HIV in the case of my study or youth who are at high risk for HIV.”

Read the full article online.

NIH awards $7.9 million to test mobile HIV prevention app for young gay and bi men

From the Rainbow Times

1The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded a $7.9 million grant to the Columbia University School of Nursing to test an HIV prevention mobile app specifically developed for high-risk young men. In the five-year project, Columbia researchers will adapt and test a new mobile version of MyPEEPS, an existing HIV education intervention that covers topics including correct condom use, dealing with stigma and shame, and communicating effectively about safer sex. MyPEEPS Mobile will be a web-based version of the intervention that will be accessible by mobile and desktop devices and that will feature games, videos, and interactive scenarios. The app will be evaluated in a randomized controlled trial involving 700 racially and ethnically diverse 13- to 18-year-old men with HIV-negative or unknown status at four geographically diverse sites: Birmingham, Alabama; Chicago, Illinois; New York, New York; and Seattle, Washington.

“Our aim is to provide this population with information to make better health decisions,” says Rebecca Schnall, a co-principal investigator for the project. “Young, diverse MSM are the most at-risk for HIV infection, and there is a dearth of evidence-based interventions targeting this community. There is much evidence that mobile tech is a great way to connect with this generation. By meeting them where they are, we are hopeful about the intervention’s potential to decrease infections.”

Free AIDSINFO drug app: HIV-Related drug information for health care providers and consumers

Healthcare providers and consumers need HIV-related drug information and, increasingly, they depend on mobile devices to access that information. AIDSinfo is meeting both needs with the release of the AIDSinfo Drug App. Using data from theAIDSinfo Drug Database, the drug app provides information on more than 100 HIV-related Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved and investigational drugs. The AIDSinfo Drug App—provided free from the National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health—is available for iOS and Android devices.

The information on the AIDSinfo Drug App, offered in English and Spanish, is tailored to meet the needs of both healthcare providers and consumers. The app works offline, ensuring that healthcare providers and consumers can access vital drug information anywhere—even in healthcare facilities that may not have an Internet connection.

The AIDSinfo Drug App pulls FDA labels from Daily Med for approved HIV-related drugs. The app also integrates information on drug nomenclature and chemical structure from ChemIDplus. Information from the labels is condensed in easy-to-understand summaries in English and Spanish for consumers.

Users can also access information on HIV-related drugs under investigation via the AIDSinfo Drug App. The investigational drug summaries, which are developed from the latest clinical trial results, are tailored by audience: technical, more detailed summaries for healthcare providers and less complex summaries in English and Spanish for consumers.

Users can also personalize the AIDSinfo Drug App. According to their needs, users can set pill reminders, bookmark drugs, or add personal notes:

  • Set pill reminders: Medication adherence is crucial to successful HIV treatment, and the app’s medication reminder can help those taking HIV medicines stay on schedule. Choosing from a menu of alarms, app users can set pill reminders for any time of the day and any day of the week.
  • Bookmark drugs: Busy users can bookmark frequently referenced drugs. No more searching for the same drugs again and again.
  • Add notes: App users can also customize drugs with personal notes. For example, patients can add notes during medical visits; healthcare providers can add relevant information useful at the point of care.

Stay tuned as AIDSinfo updates the app with additional features. Visit AIDSinfo to download the drug app to your iOS or Android device. And keep us posted on your experience with the app. We welcome your questions and comments at ContactUs@aidsinfo.nih.gov.