Can Grindr Screen Time Measure HIV Risk?

Approximately ≥60% of men who have sex with men (MSM) find sexual partners via the internet, primarily through Grindr, which is the most popular dating app among MSM.

As dating apps have grown in popularity more and more Americans are using technology to find sexual partners. According to recent estimates, ≥60% of men who have sex with men (MSM) find sexual partners via the internet, primarily through Grindr, which is the most popular dating app among MSM.

In the past, studies have found inconsistent results regarding the association between Grindr use and increased HIV risk behavior. However, in a new study, presented in an oral abstract presentation at IDWeek 2019, investigators sought to assess Grindr on-screen activity and to correlate activity with risk behavior and substance use among MSM in San Diego undergoing community-based HIV and sexually transmitted infection screening.

The investigators conducted a nested cohort study between December 2018 and April 2019, using the “Good to Go” screening program to recruit 784 participants. During testing, participants who were not currently on a pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) regimen completed a survey on demographic information, substance use and risk behavior over the previous 3 months, and Grindr usage.

Participants with iPhones were advised on how to access data on-screen activity, which can provide an objective measure of app usage, also called screen time. The participants were asked to report their Grindr screen time over the last 7 days.

Using the information provided, risk behavior was classified using the validated San Diego Early Test (SDET) score.

Of the 784 participants, 378 (48%) reported that they had opened the Grindr app in the previous week.

The investigators determined that Grindr users had higher SDET scores than non-users, (median SDET 2, IQR 0-5; mean 2.29) but no difference was observed in proportion of substance users (excluding alcohol and marijuana 21% vs 17%; p = 0.14).

In total, 231 MSM who reported using Grindr had iPhones and were able to access screen-time information. Among this population, the median screen activity during the previous 7 days was 144 minutes (range 1-2640 minutes).

“Participants with high Grindr utilization ( > 80th percentile of time on screen corresponding to > 480 minutes), had significantly higher SDET scores (median 5 vs. 2; mean 4.02 vs 3.26; p < 0.001) and a tendency towards a higher proportion of substance users (29% vs 20%) than those with lower Grindr utilization,” the investigators found.

Based on these findings, the investigators report that screen activity on Grindr can be an objective measure that can help identify MSM at high risk for HIV.

The abstract, Grindr™ on Screen Activity on iPhones Correlates with HIV Risk and Substance Use in Men Who Have Sex with Men, San Diego, was presented in an oral abstract session on Saturday, October 5, 2019, at IDWeek 2019 in Washington DC.