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Building Healthy Online Communities

Public health leaders and gay dating website & app owners working together to support the sexual health of app users.

Building Healthy Online Communities (BHOC) is a consortium of public health leaders and gay dating website and app owners who are working together to support HIV and STI prevention online.

Dan Wohlfeiler and Jen Hecht co-founded BHOC in 2014. Dan Wohlfeiler directs BHOC and it is additionally staffed by the National Coalition of STD Directors and San Francisco AIDS Foundation.

Dan and Jen have built strong relationships with app and website owners and have found many opportunities for collaboration. These include developing profile options that allow users to make informed choices about their partners; coordinating development and placement of public health messaging about STI and HIV prevention and treatment; and developing easy to use resources that allow users to notify their partners that they may have been exposed to an STI.

After conducting research to determine which online prevention strategies had the support of app and site users, owners, and STI and HIV program directors, BHOC convened a groundbreaking meeting between owners and public health leaders in September 2014. Owners were eager to collaborate to promote testing, provide accurate information, reduce stigma, and implement the most effective interventions to reduce the impact of HIV and STIs. They also told public health leaders they wanted guidance on how to best promote gay men’s health.

Public health professionals at the meeting included representatives from San Francisco AIDS Foundation, National Coalition of STD Directors, NASTAD, AIDS United, and Youth Tech Health. They continue to take active roles in informing and implementing BHOC efforts. Key site and app owners who have collaborated with BHOC include Adam4Adam, BarebackRT, Black Gay Chat, Daddyhunt/Mr X, Dudesnude,, Grindr, GROWLr, Hornet, POZ Personals, and SCRUFF.

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