Back in July, I reported on a study conducted by the Los Angles Gay and Lesbian Center which suggested that hook-up app producers “explore the use of these novel technologies for testing promotion, prevention and education” of STIs. It looks like Hornet, one of the fastest growing gay apps with over 3.4 million users, has done just that.
Makers have teamed up with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to offer Hornet users the ten closest HIV service centers when they log on the app. According to Sean Howell, a representative for Hornet, in the first day of the new feature’s launch, over 30,000 users tried the new HIV center GPS feature.
“The gay community has made great progress in reducing HIV infection rates, but new trends among young people is that HIV rates are increasing once again, 132.5 percent from 2001-2011—a much higher increase than older gay men and a significant contrast with the drop amongst the general population. This is in part because this generation didn’t live through the AIDS crisis,” says Howell. “Studies show that public concern about HIV has decreased. Yet the number of people living with HIV in the U.S. exceeds 1.1 million and continues to increase. To end the epidemic, we need help promoting HIV services in ways that are far-reaching and lasting.”
The makers of the app hope that this geo-specific resource will help. But the question remains: Will users switch to Hornet from, say, more popular hook-up apps like Grindr or Scruff, to use this new feature?
“The intersection of technology and tools for healthier living holds endless promise for empowering the populations we serve,” said Ethan Blades, who works for ActionAIDS. “One of the challenges to this type of web-based tool, however, is the consistency of this testing information. It is difficult to imagine that an app run for a national audience will be able to access the extent of local testing services. It would be disappointing to think that a person may access this resource and take the steps to learning their status only to have received misinformation about times and addresses of testing sites.”
Nevertheless, Blades thinks the feature is a step in the right direction; he adds, “Perhaps Hornet may also set the standard for other ‘hook-up’ apps to adopt similar features.”