Collaboration in Civic Spheres

UW plans mobile app for gay men at risk of HIV

by May 9th, 2012

The University of Washington is planning to contract with a smartphone applications developer who will build an app for iPhone and Android to promote events, information resources, testing and research to help gay men avoid or manage the HIV virus and other sexually-transmitted diseases. Using Emerging Opportunities Grant funds of up to $15,000 from the UW Center For AIDS Research, UW Medicine will engage with a vendor who according to contracting documents will be asked to integrate the app with the Seattle Gay Scene (SGC) website’s newsfeed and calendar as well as their Facebook and Twitter accounts. Details of the plan are found in a Request For Proposals from vendors and an accompanying Q&A document.

Mapped events and resources, dynamic prevention messaging
Part of the job is to create a database to display the SGC calendar events on a Google Maps-like interface, along with static links to research and prevention sites. A second and more dynamic database would also likely be developed, project managers say, to distribute prevention messages through the mobile app.

According to the vendor Q&A, “one of the goals of this project is to see if an app targeted to men who have sex with men (MSM) in Seattle can increase research recruitment or referral to partner sites providing HIV/STD prevention and care.”

Light on social features, at first
Vendors asked if the app’s first iteration would include added social media features like messaging, or content sharing directly to users’ RSS or Twitter feeds, or Facebook accounts. The answer was no, not to begin with, but if the app is successful and more funding is secured, then such features could be added.

New approaches welcomed to HIV prevention
Aware of the gains made against HIV and AIDS through anti-retroviral drug therapy but still concerned about continuing risk-prone behavior among some MSM in Seattle and King County, public health and communications experts here have continued to try new approaches to HIV prevention.

Ongoing effort to address high-risk behavior
One experiment used gift card vouchers to try to reduce meth use and high risk sex among Seattle area MSM, but a related study by UW Harborview researchers found it wasn’t successful. A report last fall by the National HIV Behavioral Surveillance System found the Seattle region ranked high in behaviors which increase the risk of getting HIV.

The deadline for responding to the mobile app RFP is May 10, by email only to Marianne Dizard at mdizard (at) uw (dot) edu. The work on the contract will run to May 2013. The contractor will work with UW Medicine’s Strategic Marketing and Communications and IT Services Web Development teams.

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