While gay, bi, and trans people have long been subjected to discrimination, stigma and hate speech from outside our communities, the way we treat one another can also cause harm. Too often, people within the queer community hurt others because of their race, gender identity, age, body size, disability, or because they’re living with HIV. This was true long before the internet, social networks, and apps provided the means to fuel harmful behavior. People take advantage of the anonymity the internet provides to say things they would never say in person. Too often, dating app and site users do the same. “No fats,” “No femmes,” “Clean only” – these words and their derogatory implications are all too prevalent on sites.
This kind of hate speech can cause not only psychological harm but can also facilitate HIV risk.Yale Researchers, John Pachankis and Charles Burton, found that for some gay and bi men,being repeatedly rejected by other gay and bi men online, and having a lower ‘status’ in thesexual marketplace–like not having a gym-toned body or masculine gender expression–isassociated with greater risk taking and symptoms of depression and anxiety. Building HealthyOnline Communities (BHOC), a consortium of national and local HIV and STD preventionagencies working with the owners of dating sites and app owners to support their users’ sexualhealth, decided to take action to reduce stigma for gay, bi, and trans app and site users.
BHOC reached out to app and site owners and found that there was widespread support among them to look for ways to make the experience better for everyone. Adam4Adam, Daddyhunt,dudesnude, Grindr, GROWLr, Jack’d, Manhunt, POZ Personals, and SCRUFF all joined in, andthrough advertising and messaging recruited more than 5,500 users to share ideas on whatapps and sites could do to help reduce online stigma. This was the first time that apps and siteshave come together to address an industry-wide issue.
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.
Healthcare providers and consumers need HIV-related drug information and, increasingly, they depend on mobile devices to access that information. AIDSinfois meeting both needs with the release of the AIDSinfoDrug App. Using data from theAIDSinfoDrug Database, the drug app provides information on more than 100 HIV-related Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved and investigational drugs.The AIDSinfoDrug App—provided free from theNational Library of Medicineat theNational Institutes of Health—is available foriOSandAndroiddevices.
The information on the AIDSinfoDrug 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 AIDSinfoDrug App pulls FDA labels fromDaily Medfor 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 AIDSinfoDrug 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 AIDSinfoDrug 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 AIDSinfoupdates the app with additional features. VisitAIDSinfoto 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.