Raphael J. Landovitz, M.D., of UCLA said he was going to show "how to meet a gay man in five easy steps -- GRINDR 101." The greater purpose of his presentation, however, was to give the results of a survey of young gay men using the social networking app and discuss how it might be useful for HIV prevention. In Los Angeles, as in the United States, he said, men who have sex with men (MSM) acquire the majority of new HIV infections, with those age 20-29 having the higher incidence (new infections) in that city. In the U.S., the majority of MSM with new infections are ages 13-29 (nearly four out of 10).
Dr. Landovitz reported that GRINDR boasts two million users worldwide, with 8,000 more joining each day and 280,000 logged on at least daily. GRINDR allows its users to locate each other geographically by using GPS functionality. An example put up on the screen was of a 27-year-old Latino located 81 feet away. He was single and looking for "dates, friends, and networking."
"Some of you may not be familiar with GRINDR," Dr. Landovitz said. "Some of you may be logged on to it right now," at which the audience broke out laughing.
In one slide, Landovitz pretended to show two audience members logged on. He presented their exchange on the screen.
"Hey -- you're hot [referring to the person's profile photo]!"
"Thanks! U2. Where u at?"
"No way. Me too!"
"Presentation on GRINDR. Interesting, but the presenter is a dork."
They make arrangements to meet up later.
According to the research group's abstract, "Young MSM (YMSM) in Los Angeles age 20-29 have the highest HIV incidence rates of any age-risk population segment in the city. YMSM are technology savvy and use GPS-based social networking 'apps,' such as GRINDR, to facilitate sexual partnering. GRINDR has more than [two] milliion users and more than 46,500 users in L.A. GRINDR may be a tool to access hard to reach communities."
Was it? In their abstract conclusion, they report that, "GRINDR was a feasible and acceptable method to recruit a sample of YMSM. Most complied with CDC-recommended annual HIV testing. Prevalence of self-reported HIV was similar to data from other recruitment techniques in YMSM; this suggests little bias by HIV status in this sample. With high rates of reported STIs and risk behavior, the sample is at high risk for HIV acquisition. On GRINDR, fewer HIV-positives inquired about partners' HIV status than HIV-negatives, suggesting less serosorting [picking partners of the same HIV status]. GRINDR may be a mechanism for providing HIV prevention messaging and interventions."
The research group used areas of Los Angeles frequented by young MSM. GRINDR members identified as 18 to 29 years of age were eligible for the survey. Of 4,808 contacts made over five months, only 375 individuals (7.8%) were recruited into the survey. Their age ranged from 22 to 27. The greatest number of them were white (42.4%), followed by Latinos (33.6%), Asian (14.1%), and African Americans (6.4%).
Of these, 83.2% had been tested for HIV in the past year, with 4.3% reported having never been tested for the virus. The men reported having had gonorrhea (17.9%), Chlamydia (13.6%), and syphilis (9.1%). The average number of partners for anal sex in the previous year was 10. More than half (56%) had found a sex partner through GRINDR in the previous three months and 41% reported inconsistent condom use for receptive anal sex. While 98% reported sex with men in the previous year, 10% reported having sex with women in that time period, two reported sex with transgender women, and one reported sex with a transgender male.