by Mike Mrkic

A leading AIDS organisation is pushing for the inclusion of safe-sex warnings on an iPhone application for gay men.

ACON fears that Grindr, an iPhone application that links gay men within the same geographic vicinity, has the potential to promote unsafe sex practices.

It is working with the application’s manufacturers to implement safe-sex warnings.

“We’re currently in discussion with Grindr to see how we can best include some element of condom reinforcement within the app,” ACON CEO Nicolas Parkhill told Sydney Star Observer.

“This could be done through advertising, by sending health promotion messages to users, by including information within the app or a combination of these options.”

Since its introduction in March last year, Grindr’s GPS-based technology has changed the way many Australian gay men arrange casual sex.

Instead of meeting in Oxford St’s bars or on the internet, the application allows members to locate and communicate with other gay men in the immediate vicinity via their mobile phone.

Sexual health experts are concerned that more traditional methods of hooking up provide safe-sex information.

Safe-sex literature is openly displayed in Oxford St’s gay clubs, while internet sites like Manhunt and Gaydar include similar information on advertisements and pop-up banners.

As yet, none of these warnings have been incorporated into Grindr.

The application’s founder, Joel Simkhai, said the organisation supported safe sex.

“We recognise there are health risks specific to our community and we want to communicate them to our users … we don’t believe in unsafe sex,” he said.

This will occur through safe-sex warnings being displayed before the application launches and by allowing sexual health organisations to make their own user profiles.

Not all experts foresee the application leading to the increased transmission of sexually transmitted diseases.

Sydney University’s Professor of Gender Studies, Dr Kane Race, said Grindr “does not introduce a radical new concept for casual sex. Gay men have always found different ways to hook up”.

Race said the increasing popularity of new technologies may be directly related to the decreased use of beats and other public cruising outlets, but ageed “there is no opportunity for HIV status disclosure [on Grindr]”.

ACON community health director Craig Cooper said the organisation was not pushing to implement this measure.

“The onus remains on the individual to disclose status. We are concentrating on promoting condom use and other safe-sex practices,” he said.

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