It also works with public health departments when it comes to notifying a partner who may have been exposed to an STD, according to Senior Health Strategist David Novak, who served as the national syphilis elimination coordinator at both the CDC and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health before coming to work at Online Buddies, Manhunt’s parent company.
“Partner notification was historically performed on a face-to-face basis, but with populations moving to dating sites/apps, a new strategy for delivering disease outbreak interventions was necessary,” said Novak, who worked with Hsu during his time at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.
Technology has complicated matters even further, said Katherine Hsu, the medical director of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s Division of STD Prevention & HIV/AIDS Surveillance.
When a person tests positive for syphilis in Massachusetts, the case is reported to the state public health department, which reports it to the CDC without identifying the person.
people they were with in the past 90 days, they could find the people.”Now, she said, “it’s very difficult to contact the partners, because many partners are anonymous.” People don't know their sex partners as intimately as they once did; they may be individuals they know mostly through a profile photo and short blurb.
Depending on the app, people may only identify themselves by first names or handles, though they often have the option of linking with their Facebook accounts.
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Grindr is also active in Building Healthy Online Communities (BHOC), a group of public health leaders, researchers and gay dating apps that work to support HIV and STD prevention online, he said.
And Manhunt, which calls itself “the world’s biggest gay hookup site,” partners with Manhunt Cares, an organization that provides health resources for Manhunt's 237,000 active users and the LGBTQ community at large.
It is important for dating apps to promote STD awareness and prevention, says Philip Chan, the director of the HIV/STD Testing and Prevention Services at the Miriam Hospital Immunology Center in Rhode Island.
Gay dating apps in particular are starting to do more of this, he said.“The majority of (syphilis) cases are among gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men,” Chan said.
Hsu said this “on-the-ground” approach has encountered significant challenges in today’s world of dating apps.