As we collectively wind down from the turbulence of 2020, the BHOC team would like to take a moment to share some highlights of our year and thank our colleagues and supporters.
When we were developing TakeMeHome to increase access to HIV and STI testing by providing free self-test kits, we couldn’t have imagined that COVID would make it even more important: the vast majority of sexual health clinics have closed or reduced hours, and many health department staff have been redeployed.
Since the launch, 15 health jurisdictions have joined the program with many more states and counties continuing to express interest. To date, we have mailed out over 3500 kits and we’ve received very positive feedback from users who express satisfaction with the ease of use as well as the reduced anxiety of testing at home, especially in the time of COVID.
This fall, BHOC was awarded a grant from CDC (alongside partners Emory, OraSure, and Insignia) to expand our work nationally.
And this January, comprehensive STI testing (3-site chlamydia and gonorrhea, syphilis, and HIV dried blood spot) will be incorporated into the self-testing program. We are also currently translating TakeMeHome into Spanish. Several dating apps, including Grindr, Jack’d, SCRUFF and Adam4Adam are promoting and including links to the self-testing program. Grindr and Manhunt are generously providing free ads to support the program.
When the pandemic began, we compiled information on sex during COVID from the New York City Department of Public Health and TheBody.com. App partners are linking out to our coronavirus page, which remains our most trafficked webpage of the year with nearly 26,000 visitors to date.
TellYourPartner.org is sending close to 10,000 messages per week on average to US users. BHOC developed and promoted the partner notification service before transitioning it to NCSD. And in response to the demand for Covid-19 contact tracing, BHOC together with Dr. Jeff Klausner developed TellYourContacts.org, a website that individuals with a COVID diagnosis may use to anonymously notify others that they may have been exposed to coronavirus.
Dating app partnerships
We’ve been very happy to see a number of dating apps enhance their sexual health profile fields. As an example, BHOC partnered and provided research to SCRUFF and Jack’d to revise language (including changing “treatment as prevention” to “undetectable”) and recommended they add an optional HIV status field, which was implemented this year.
One of BHOC’s main roles is to help dating app owners support their users’ sexual health as much as they can through profile options and messaging, and we’re so excited to see them offer HIV testing reminders and prominent links directing users to TakeMeHome.org.
Digital advertising project
We completed our adverting project with the California Office of AIDS promoting PrEP and U=U among gay, bisexual, and transgender men of color in six key counties around California that have high rates of STDs and HIV.
We found that ads from other states worked well in California, underscoring the importance of HIV and STI Programs sharing their advertising with others through our advertising clearinghouse. This allows public health programs to reduce the amount they need to spend on creating new ads, and use those dollars to spend on increasing placement. For more information on cost-effective ways to place advertising, go to bhocpartners.org.
This summer we launched our NiceAF anti-stigma campaign in a pioneering cross-industry collaboration of sites and apps, including in-kind advertising support from Grindr, SCRUFF, Jack’d, Adam4Adam, Daddyhunt, POZ Personals, and BRO App. Participants from around the world submitted video testimonials about how they keep the online dating experience positive.
During the five-week voting contest on NiceAF.org, over 105,000 site visitors watched, voted and commented on the videos, and cash prizes totaling $500 were awarded to the most-voted clips.
BHOC is in the early stages of planning a NiceAF campaign for 2021. If you’re interested in participating, contact us.
Public health partners are invited to send ideas and suggestions for how to improve the health of app users – and by doing so, all of our communities. Thanks for your ongoing support and efforts to end the epidemic.
Happy New Year!
Jen, Dan and Tony
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