Gay App MISTER Partners with Hula for HIV Education, Testing

by Winnie McCroy

EDGE Editor

Tuesday November 12, 2013

In an effort to educate mobile app users about HIV, gay social app MISTER has teamed with Hula for an education campaign to help users located HIV and STD testing sites, and to learn their status.

"We're in a position to help educate the community, and we should use it," said Carl Sandler, CEO of MISTER. "The gay mobile app has become one of the primary ways gay men, particularly younger gay men, connect with one another. We need to do all we can to make sure that they are making informed choices about their partners and their health."

While overall rates of HIV infection have remained stable, young gay men who have sex with men (MSM), primarily those of color, continue to experience rising rates of new HIV infections. According to the CDC, from 2008-2010, HIV infections among young African-American MSM increased 20 percent. In 2010, MSM accounted for 63 percent of all new infections in the U.S.

The Center for HIV Educational Studies and Training showed that as man as 1 in 10 men using a mobile app to hook up with guys has never had an HIV test. Of that cohort, one third said they told partners they were HIV-negative, and one-third admitted to having sex without a condom.

This prompted the decision for MISTER to partner with Hula, an app that helps users find the best local HIV testing center. The app will also empower users to securely display verified info about their last testing date and results.

"We're excited that MISTER asked us to partner with them on this important project," said Ramin Bastani, founder and CEO of Hula. "This gives us the chance to reach a large swatch of the millions of gay men active on mobile apps and help them make more informed decisions about their partners."

Bastani said that he first started the company in 2010 when a girl slapped him across the face after he asked her if she'd been tested. "There has to be a better way to have this conversation," said Bastani, who believes that we can dramatically reduce HIV and STDs by utilizing technology in a smarter way.

Once users get tested, they can request their Hula results be sent to their app or online. Hula will verify their status while digitally displaying test results in an easy to read "positive" or "negative" format. Users can share the results with partners, but can't upload their own test results; they must come directly from their health care provider.

Hula believes that by using this radical approach, they will dramatically reduce transmission of STDs and achieve their mission of "helping people make better health decisions by giving them high quality information at their fingertips."

MISTER has been dedicated since its inception to be a responsible social app, stressing respect, integrity and safety. In September, they launched the first annual #iamMISTER awards honoring organizations that are supporting and improving the gay community.

And Sandler will speak on the connection between mobile networking and HIV at the 11th International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific in Bangkok this November.

To find a test site, visit https://www.hulahq.com/ For more information, visit https://twitter.com/gethula

Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women's news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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