Reaching Suburban Men Who Have Sex With Men for STD and HIV Services Through Online Social Networking Outreach: A Public Health Approach

J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr. 2016 May 1;72(1):73-8. doi: 10.1097/QAI.0000000000000930.


Background: Technology-enabled approaches may reach suburban and rural men who have sex with men (MSM) who lack physical venues, where they live for sexually transmitted disease (STD)/HIV prevention efforts. We evaluated using Grindr, an all-male social networking platform, for STD/HIV prevention services to MSM by a suburban Public Health department.

Methods: Phase 1 (October 2012-March 2013) focused on acceptability of prevention messages by MSM on Grindr and phase 2 (October 2013-March 2014) Grindr use for implementing testing and linkage-to-care. We compared the number of Public Health encounters with MSM before and after initiation of Grindr use and the proportion of users who remained engaged with Public Health staff after being told they were interacting with a health educator.

Results: For a 6-month period before Grindr outreach, Public Health had 60 contacts with MSM. Contacts increased to 305 MSM in phase 1, of which 168/213 (79%) remained engaged. In phase 2, among 903 MSM contacts, 69% remained engaged. Asian and Hispanic MSM were more likely to remain engaged with outreach staff; white men were more likely to be not engaged. No significant difference in age between engaged and nonengaged MSM was seen.

Conclusions: Grindr outreach by Public Health in a suburban county seems acceptable to MSM and leads to a 14-fold increase in MSM reached for counseling and education compared with a traditional outreach period. Further evaluation of technology-enabled approaches for STD/HIV prevention in suburban and rural MSM is warranted.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • HIV Infections / prevention & control*
  • Health Education / methods*
  • Homosexuality, Male*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Public Health / methods*
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Social Media*
  • Suburban Population*
  • Young Adult