OPW INTERVIEW - Oct 29 - TellYourPartner.org is a new STD prevention tool launched by Building Healthy Online Communities (BHOC). It allows users to anonymously text or email a sexual partner that they might be at risk of an STD. We have interviewed BHOC director Dan Wohlfeiler about how dating apps can help stop the spread of record high STD infections among their users.
What dating apps have signed up to assist?
Grindr includes the link to TYP in its sexual health FAQs. Daddyhunt is currently designing new reminders to get regular sexual health check-ups, and what tests those should include. GROWLr, Grindr, Adam4Adam, and Daddyhunt have incorporated suggestions on profile design related to sexual health options.
How are they working with TYP, and BHOC?
BHOC works closely with apps to help customize HIV and STD prevention strategies. We've worked with them to design profile options that help users exchange information about whether or not they are taking Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), have an undetectable viral load, and/or prefer to use condoms. This helps users make informed choices, and importantly, promotes norms about taking active steps to promote sexual health. BHOC has worked with apps to help users sign up for automatic testing reminders at their choice of three or six-month intervals. Based on app owners' requests, BHOC also developed an extensive sexual health information resource guide, and continues to update it regularly. We've also worked with apps to help inform users about outbreaks. We're also partnering closely with Grindr to promote home-based testing. We have also partnered with apps to produce public service announcements, and are developing a clearinghouse of campaigns for public health organizations to share. This will reduce their need to invest in developing new creative, freeing up more funds for ad placement.
What would you like to see dating apps support TYP and BHOC?
One key strategy is to regularly and consistently promote getting tested, and let people know about TYP and the other resources that BHOC has available. Our research shows that app users look favorably on apps that take proactive steps to support their health, so it's a win-win for the industry and for public health. Profiles should have options to enable users to exchange clear information about sexual health strategies. Dating apps can also show support by promoting our digital anti-stigma campaign, NiceAF.org, and by offering discounted ads for public health departments and non-profit organizations, all of which have extremely limited budgets.
How is BHOC funded at this stage?
BHOC has been funded by Gilead Sciences, Inc., Google, Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation, and private donations. Additionally, our public health partners and apps have dedicated considerable time and energy in helping obtain and provide input from their members and users that guide our work. We're particularly grateful to those apps that have made changes in their platforms, such as profile options and testing reminders. They serve a life-saving role in the same way as banking curves on a freeway reduces automobile accidents. Once they're in place, they provide a huge benefit to the health of the entire community.