Using social media campaigns to get hard-to-reach groups tested for HIV and linked to care, if necessary, shows high potential, according to research from the University of California, Los Angeles, presented at IDWeek 2014. A six-week campaign on Grindr — a "geosocial networking smartphone application popular with MSM [men who have sex with men]" — targeting MSM of color in Los Angeles yielded more than 50 requests a week for OraQuick HIV self-test kits. Both of the respondents to a follow-up survey who tested positive were seeking testing to confirm the in-home test results or seeking medical care.
Previous studies had established that African-American MSM are four times less likely to be aware of their serostatus than white MSM. Demographic data show that in 2011 African Americans had the highest rate of HIV infections (966 per 100,000) compared to other racial and ethnic groups in the U.S. Fear of stigma is a major barrier to people seeking HIV testing, and at-home tests may be able to break that barrier.
The Grindr campaign consisted of 300,000 banner ad impressions and four broadcast messages promoting free HIV self-test kits and was targeted at African American and Latino MSM in areas of Los Angeles with high HIV prevalence. The ads were run between April 17 and May 29, 2014, resulting in almost 12,000 unique visits, which spiked early each week (Mondays and Tuesdays) and averaged 284 a day.
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