BACKGROUND: Understanding where and how young black men who have sex with men (YBMSM) in the southern United States meet their sexual partners is germane to understanding the underlying factors contributing to the ongoing HIV transmission in this community. Men who have sex with men (MSM) commonly use geosocial networking apps to meet sexual partners. However, there is a lack of literature exploring geosocial networking app use in this particular population.
OBJECTIVE: Our aim was to examine the characteristics, preferences, and behaviors of a geographically diverse sample of geosocial networking app-using YBMSM in the southern United States.
METHODS: Data were collected from a sample of 75 YBMSM across three cities (Gulfport, Mississippi; Jackson, Mississippi; and New Orleans, Louisiana). Multiple aspects of geosocial networking app use were assessed, including overall app use, age of participant at first app use, specific apps used, reasons for app use, photos presented on apps, logon times and duration, number of messages sent and received, and characteristics of and behaviors with partners met on apps. Survey measures of app-met partner and sexual behavior characteristics assessed at midpoint (Day 7) and completion visits (Day 14) were compared using McNemar’s test or Wilcoxon signed-rank test. In addition, we assessed activity spaces derived from GPS devices that participants wore for 2 weeks.
RESULTS: Of the 70 participants who responded to the overall app-use item, almost three-quarters (53/70, 76%) had ever used geosocial networking apps. Jack’d was the most commonly used geosocial networking app (37/53, 70%), followed by Adam4Adam (22/53, 42%), and Grindr (19/53, 36%). The mean and median number of apps used were 4.3 (SD 2.7) and 4.0 (range 0-13), respectively. Most app-using participants displayed their face on the profile picture (35/52, 67%), whereas fewer displayed their bare legs (2/52, 4%) or bare buttocks (or ass; 2/52, 4%). The mean age at the initiation of app use was 20.1 years (SD 2.78) ranging from 13-26 years. Two-thirds (35/53, 66%) of the sample reported using the apps to “kill time” when bored. A minority (9/53, 17%) reported using the apps to meet people to have sex/hook up with. The vast majority of participants reported meeting black partners for sex. Over two-thirds (36/53, 68%) reported that the HIV status of their app-met partners was negative, and 26% (14/53) reported that they did not know their partner’s HIV status. There was a significant difference in GPS activity spaces between app using YBMSM compared to nonapp using YBMSM (2719.54 km(2) vs 1855.68 km(2), P=.011).
CONCLUSIONS: Use of geosocial networking apps to meet sexual partners among our sample of YBMSM in the southern United States was common, with a diverse range of app use behaviors being reported. Further research should characterize the association between geosocial networking app use and engagement in sexual behaviors that increase risk for HIV acquisition and transmission. In addition, geosocial networking apps present a promising platform for HIV prevention interventions targeting YBMSM who use these apps.
Characterizing geosocial-networking app use among young Black men who have sex with men: A multi-city cross-sectional survey in the southern United States
JMIR Mhealth and Uhealth, 6 (6), e10316. doi: 10.2196/10316. PMCID: PMC6024099.