Popular hookup app Grindr is reportedly considering a new feature that would alert users if may have been exposed to a sexually transmitted infection.
Photo: Leon Neal (Getty)
According to Mashable, which learned of the potential alert option from public health experts, the feature would work by giving user a way to tell their previous sexual partners that they'd received a diagnosis. At this point, however, it's unclear whether the alleged feature will make it into the official app.
Grindr has not explicitly confirmed that it's testing the feature, but it did say the company is working on functionalities in that general category.
"We are exploring several additional sexual health-related features for our application," Jack Harrison-Quintana, director of Grindr for Equality, told Mashable. "However, at this time, we are not disclosing any further details around this project."
Although Grindr is reportedly still in the testing phase, Mashable hypothesises two basic options for integrating STI notification into Grindr: In-app or third-party.
With the third-party option, users would rely on a separate messaging platform to notify former partners. Another app, Adam4Adam, relies on inSpot, a messaging platform that lets users anonymously notify partners that they may have been exposed to an STI.
However, this option requires users to have the personal contact information of every partner they wish to contact. There's no guarantee someone has that information for all their hookups.
Another option is in-app notifications, and even this could happen a few different ways. In one scenario, Grindr users could opt-in to a system that lets them anonymously message former partners, telling them to get tested. Another scenario: The process is automated, and Grindr itself would send a stock notification message advising the alerted person or people get tested.
"The app could send a notification to say: 'It's really important that you get tested for STDs, and here's a link to a zip code based search engine to find the closest STD clinic near you,'" Dr Heidi Bauer, the chief of STD control at the California Department of Health, told Mashable.
As Mashable notes, there are drawbacks to either scenario.
Letting users themselves choose which partners to notify risks some affected partners being left out, either through malice or simple forgetfulness. Further, notifications could make for a terrifying troll option - users could send false warning messages as a retaliation for, say, ghosting or a bad date. Finally, there's always the possibility of the "car alarm" effect, where the alerts are received so often users dismiss them.
There's no word yet on any timeline for the project. While HIV infection rates have trended downward for many gay men (though not all) due to the advent of medical advances, other STIs, syphillis especially, have increased.