Background: The advent of geosocial networking (GSN) phone applications such as Grindr has transformed the landscape for men who have sex with men (MSM) seeking sexual partners within close proximity.
Objectives: To describe the frequency and characteristics of GSN users and their relationship to sexually transmitted infection (STI) acquisition compared with Internet/non-GSN users and non-internet/non-GSN users; and to explore potential mechanisms for using GSN for STI prevention, treatment and referral.
Methods: In August 2011, the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center began tracking data on the four GSN applications reported by clients as most frequently used for locating sexual partners. We categorized visits of MSM by self-reporting of GSN use, Internet/non-GSN use, or non-internet/non-GSN use in the past 3 months to meet sexual partners and computed the Pearson chi-square test statistic to assess associations.
Results: Of the 1,337 visits among MSM, 176 (13%) reported use of a GSN application; 218 (16%) use of the internet/non-GSN, and 1054 (71%) non-internet/non-GSN to meet sexual partners in the past 3 months. Asian-Pacific Islanders (20%) were significantly more likely and Hispanics (9%) were significantly less likely to report GSN use compared with Whites (15%) (p<0.01). Younger age was significantly associated with GSN use compared with older age (p<0.01). GSN users had a significantly higher proportion of positive GC/CT test results compared with non-internet/non-GSN users and a slightly higher proportion than internet/non-GSN users (GSN: 24%, Non-Internet/Non-GSN: 12%, Internet/non-GSN: 20%, p < .01). HIV test results were not significantly different among users (p=.078).
Conclusions: Preliminary data suggests that STI prevalence is higher among MSM using GSN applications compared with non-internet/non-GSN users. Continued surveillance is needed to better understand the STI/HIV risk.
Implications for Programs, Policy, and Research: Given that geosocial networking applications are increasing in popularity as a means to meet sexual partners, HIV/STI prevention programs should develop novel interventions within this emerging social dynamic.