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Grindr joins major public health push to distribute free at-home HIV tests

In an effort funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the popular gay dating app will help distribute 1 million test kits nationwide.
Grindr's main menu tab now includes a 'Free HIV Home Test' button, as well as a 'Testing Reminder' feature.
Grindr's main menu tab now includes a "Free HIV Home Test" button, as well as a "Testing Reminders" feature.Grindr

The world’s most popular gay dating app, Grindr, is participating in a nationwide effort to distribute free at-home HIV testing kits to populations most affected by the virus. 

“If you’ve got a way that you are testing, and it’s really working for you, then that’s great, and you should stick with that,” Jack Harrison-Quintana, director of the app’s social justice division, Grindr for Equality, told NBC News. “If you don’t, this is an additional way for you to get tested in a way that’s just about as easy as doing an at-home Covid test.” 

Grindr, which reports 12 million monthly active users worldwide, is partnering with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Emory University and several other public health organizations and corporations on the Together TakeMeHome campaign, which launched Tuesday. Supported by a $41 million grant from the CDC, the program will provide up to 1 million HIV self-tests over five years, at no cost for individuals 

The program, according to a statement released by Emory, was initiated in response to a decline in the number of HIV tests administered nationwide during the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Grindr’s primary role in the effort is to allow users in the U.S. and Puerto Rico to easily order an at-home HIV test directly from the app. Starting Tuesday afternoon, Grindr users will see a “Free HIV Home Test” button in the app’s main menu. Those who click will be redirected out of the app to the Together TakeMeHome site, where an at-home HIV test can be ordered. 

The test kit consists of an FDA-approved OraQuick device that uses mouth swabs and takes 20 minutes to provide a result. The app will also allow users to set “Testing Reminders” where they can set up a three- or six-month reminder for HIV testing.  

Dr. Robyn Neblett, the acting director of the CDC’s Division of HIV Prevention, said these at-home tests give people “the power to test on their own terms.”

“Removing barriers to testing like stigma, discrimination, and access to physical services improves health, advances health equity, and moves our nation closer to ending the HIV epidemic,” Neblett said in a statement.

The CDC recommends those ages 13 to 64 get tested for HIV at least once as part of routine health care. Those with certain risk factors — including men who have sex with men — should get tested at least once a year. 

The Together TakeMeHome program is available to anyone in the U.S. and Puerto Rico over the age of 17, and each individual can order up to two kits every 90 days. The focus of the program, however, will be on U.S. populations disproportionately affected by HIV, including cisgender men who have sex with men, transgender people and Black cisgender women. 

Men who have sex with men account for 70% of new cases of HIV in the U.S., according to the CDC. Whites in this demographic comprised 15% of the 34,800 HIV transmissions in 2019, while the much smaller populations of their Black and Latino peers comprised a respective 26% and 23% of new cases.

According to an investigation published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine in 2019, the distribution of HIV self-tests provides “a worthwhile mechanism to increase awareness of HIV infection” and prevents transmission among men who have sex with men.