Gay men can be effectively and efficiently
recruited to HIV prevention studies using the Grindr smartphone app, investigators
from Los Angeles report in AIDS and
Grindr was especially useful at reaching
younger, more educated gay men who had a higher number of sexual partners.
“We found Grindr to be an efficient and
effective tool for the identification and recruitment of a targeted high-risk
MSM [men who have sex with men] population in Los Angeles County,” write the
Smartphones enable users to access the
internet quickly, conveniently and at low cost. Grindr is a location-based
social networking smartphone application
targeted at gay men. It was developed in 2009 and works on Apple, BlackBerry
and Android devices.
Investigators in Los Angeles wanted to see
if the application could be used to recruit gay men to a rectal microbicide
An advert was posted on Grindr in May and
July 2010. This was linked to email and telephone contact details for the
The investigators gathered data on the advert’s
response rate and compared the characteristics of the men recruited using
Grindr to those who were enrolled using more traditional recruitment
strategies, such as information flyers and outreach at clinics and community
In 2010, there were a total of 46,400
Grindr users in Los Angeles with 70% logging on daily. The investigators
calculated that 32,480 users would have seen their advert. A total of 1389 men
(4.3%) clicked on the study’s advert and accessed the contract details. The
investigators received 137 contacts from Grindr users via email or telephone.
“This corresponds to an overall response
rate of 10% of men who clicked through and approximately 0.3% of total Grindr
users in LA county,” note the authors. “Our two single broadcast events
required minimal preparation and technical expertise to launch.”
Overall, 105 men completed the study, and
their median age was 38 years. Just over a third identified as white, 93% were
English speaking and 47% had a college education.
Study participants reported receptive anal
sex with a mean of 79 partners during their lifetime. The mean number of
receptive anal sexual partners in the year before recruitment to the study was
seven and the men reported a mean of two receptive anal sex acts within the two
weeks immediately preceding recruitment.
Many of the men were bisexual, with 30%
reporting vaginal sex in the previous 14 days,
A total of 24% of study participants were
recruited using Grindr. Those recruited using Grindr were more likely to
complete their screening visit and enrol on the study (24 of 25 vs 93 of 123,
p < 0.05).
There were also significant demographic
differences between Grindr participants and individuals recruited using
The men in the Grindr sample were more likely to be
aged between 18 and 30 years (56 vs 19%, p < 0.01), white (44 vs 30%, p
< 0.01) and to have a college education (68 vs 40%, p < 0.02).
There were also some non-significant
differences in sexual risk behaviour between the two groups.
Men recruited via Grindr reported a mean of
nine anal sex partners in the previous year compared to a mean of six partners
for the other men. Men recruited via the smartphone app also had fewer
lifetime female sexual partners (mean 2 vs 19).
The investigators believe that Grindr could
be a good way of recruiting gay men to HIV prevention studies. “Participants
were highly motivated and altruistic, however their relative affluence resulted
in some scheduling conflicts between our clinic and their working hours.”
Nevertheless, they regard their findings as
preliminary: “More research is needed to explore alternative social networking
applications and their ability to target specific sub-groups within the Los
Angeles MSM population, and demonstrate the efficacy of these recruitment
approaches against proven recruitment strategies.”