Mark S. Bonham Centre for
Sexual Diversity Studies

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Social media and sexual health: U of T researchers recruit ‘health ambassadors’ for popular gay networking app

June 17th 2019

“‘On a Saturday night 20 years ago, everyone would be out at a gay bar dancing,’ says David Brennan, an associate professor in the University of Toronto’s Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work.

“Now, everyone’s at home swiping and watching Netflix. There isn’t the same sense of community.”

It’s a hurdle Brennan and other researchers at U of T’s CRUISElab – an interdisciplinary social work research lab that focuses on the health and well-being of gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men – hope to overcome by using social media apps to promote sexual health and then track the tactic’s effectiveness in reaching the desired audience.

The lab is currently recruiting men for a public-private-academic effort that will see volunteers serve as “health ambassadors” on Hornet, a popular social networking app for gay men.

The health ambassadors, as well as the regular Hornet users who they interact with, will then be given a chance to participate in focus groups and surveys so researchers can learn more about how social media apps, which are increasingly popular among people seeking out sex, romance, friendship and community, can be leveraged for sexual health outreach.

“We want to see whether these types of conversations make a difference in people’s lives, and whether these interactions cause people to take actions to take care of their health and wellness,” says Brennan, who is CRUISElab’s director.”

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