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Building Healthy Online Communities

(April 2017, Check out the great partnership with Daddyhunt here.)

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

Dan Wohlfeiler and Jen Hecht, who have more than 40 years of combined experience in HIV and STD prevention, 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 STD and HIV prevention and treatment; and supporting initiatives to allow users to notify their partners that they may have been exposed to an STD.

After conducting research to determine which online prevention strategies had the support of app and site users, owners, and STD 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 STDs. They also told public health leaders they wanted guidance as to how best to 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 Project Inform. 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, Gay.com, Grindr, Growlr, Hornet, POZ Personals, and Scruff.

Current initiatives include:

  • Training health departments on best practices in preventing HIV and STDs online
  • Ongoing consultation with site and app owners to support the health of their users
  • Supporting the development of a web series incorporating a storyline about HIV and STD prevention, as well as five public service announcements
  • Partnering with Human Rights Campaign to develop information for STD Awareness Month
  • Finalizing development of bhocpartners.org, which will provide comprehensive information for users about how to prevent the transmission of STDs and HIV; best practices for owners in how to create healthy, stigma-free environments for their users; links to existing advertising campaigns; a literature review of important articles about online prevention; news updates, and much more.
  • Ongoing testing and placement of messaging to promote testing, PrEP, condom use, and HIV treatment
  • Creation, curation and editing of blog content (click here for an example)
  • Collaborating with the developers of pleaseprepme.org and preplocator.org in their efforts to promote information about and access to PrEP providers
  • Research with the University of Washington to assess app users’ preferences about how best to support notifying their partners that they may have been exposed to an STD
  • Development of a training platform for public health professionals to develop expertise in notifying partners

For a report on the September, 2014 meeting between site and app owners and HIV/STD prevention leaders, click here. 

For more information on the formative research survey used to guide prevention efforts online, please see the resources linked below:

Building Healthy Online Communities held a meeting of STD/HIV program directors,  HIV community-based organizations, and CDC representatives on Dec. 9, 2015 to discuss next steps in prioritizing interventions and research for prevention on dating sites and apps.  Please click here for the report to find out more about the meeting.

For any questions about these resources, please contact Dan Wohlfeiler.

Date Published: 
Thursday, May 19, 2016