A Brooklyn-based health centre is currently using LGBTQ+ dating apps to contact members of the community and promote sexual health services.
Wyckoff Heights Medical Center is thought to be the first hospital in the country that has an outreach program like this. It was first launched in 2016 and has since encouraged more than 300 users to have health checks.
Instead of running advertisements in the traditional manner, members of staff create regular accounts on platforms like Grindr, SCRUFF and Jack’d. They use fake pictures of attractive nurses to match with users and ask unintrusive questions about their testing history.
The scheme was created by Antón Castellanos-Usigli, a recent graduate who was hired because the hospital wanted to target more LGBTQ+ Hispanics. He concluded that a lot of young people talk about sex on Grindr, so that was an ideal place to kickstart an awareness campaign.
It’s aiming to get HIV-positive patients into the ‘Status Neutral’ program at an “untransmittable viral load” and prevent the disease from spreading further through condom use, regular testing and PrEP procedures.
Speaking to NBC News, Castellanos-Usigli explained: “Having staff members that identify with populations we serve accompanied with cultural competency and humility trainings help best serve the population to decrease stigma.”
However, although a lot of the app users are grateful for receiving information, not everyone who is contacted is happy to find out that they’ve been talking to a fake profile.
Elsewhere, health advocates in The Philippines cited dating apps as one of the main reasons for the country’s exponential rise in HIV cases over the past few years.
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