HIV news: Link found between use of online hookup sites and recent HIV infections

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A study shows that more than 60 percent of the men who have sex with men (MSM) diagnosed with HIV in Rhode Island in 2013 believed that someone they met through online hookup sites and apps may have given them the virus.

These findings came from a study that interviewed 70 people in Rhode Island who were infected with HIV, 43 of whom engaged in MSM activities. Of these 43 individuals, 22 people reported meeting sexual partners online. The most popular online websites and mobile apps include Grindr, Manhunt, Scruff, Adam4Adam and Craigslist. 

The authors of the study, published in the journal Public Health Reports, led by Dr. Thomas Chan, urged that the owners of these websites and apps should collaborate with public health groups and other health care providers to raise awareness and facilitate education on HIV and other STDs to its users. One strategy is by reducing the price of advertisements for non-profit organizations, so that it will be easier to reach out to target populations and educate them with the risks of sexual encounters arranged online. Another is simply through making donations to philanthropic organizations. 

“This is one of the first studies to document how common Internet site use is among people newly diagnosed with HIV and highlights important opportunities to partner with hookup sites to advance public health.” said Amy Nunn in a report in the Brown University website. Nunn is an associate professor of Public Health and Medicine at Brown University and director of the Rhode Island Public Health Institute.

In the article, the authors wrote that these results do not intend to “further stigmatize an already marginalized community in need of public health resources,” adding that the “ubiquitous use of hookup sites nationwide [should warrant] urgent and nationwide public policy attention, innovative research, programmatic partnerships, and investment from the public and private sectors.”