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Journal of Aids & Clinical Research

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Community-based participatory research, AIDS (Disease) -- United States, HIV infections -- United States, Gay men, Bisexual men, Transgender people, Mobile apps


Objective: Researchers and public health professionals have increased their attention to GPS-based social and sexual networking applications (apps) tailored to gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender women. These populations continue to be disproportionately affected by HIV in the United States; therefore, these apps, in particular Grindr, have become an important sampling venue for the recruitment of HIV-related research participants. As such, it is essential to identify differences among app users to avoid potential sampling bias. This paper seeks to identify differences in MSM and transgender women who use Grindr and those who use other similar apps.

Methods: A community-based participatory research (CBPR) approach was used to recruit participants online who then completed a 25-item anonymous survey. Five domains were assessed: sociodemographics, HIV testing, sexual risk, substance abuse, and use of GPS-based social and sexual networking apps.

Results: 457 participants completed surveys. There were significant differences in the sociodemographic characteristics by app use, including age, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, and outness. After adjusting for the sociodemographic characteristics associated with app use, there were significant differences in HIV risk and substance use between the groups.

Conclusion: This paper is the first to report on findings that compare MSM and transgender women who report using Grindr to MSM and transgender women who report using other similar apps. GPS-based social and sexual networking apps may offer a valuable recruitment tool for future HIV research seeking to recruit populations at increased risk for HIV or those living with HIV for therapeutic trials. Because of the differences identified across users of different apps, these findings suggest that if researchers recruited participants from just one app, they could end up with a sample quite different than if they had recruited MSM and transgender women from other apps.


© 2018 Sun CJ, et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.



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