Some critics are questioning the National Institute of Health for designating more than $1 million in funding to help develop a smart device app that helps gay black teens improve their sex life.
According to The Washington Free Beacon, the project will be headed by a California-based tech firm called dfusion inc. The company plans to create at least two apps, including one called T3.
The software is designed to appeal to black youth between 14 and 17 years old who are looking for sex with men, according to the Free Beacon. In many ways, the app is designed to work like a dating tool with specific tips and advice for its target market.
Among the features its developers tout are tips for avoiding sexually transmitted diseases.
Project leaders Karin Coyle, Scotts Valley and Tamara Kuhn released a statement explaining the broader mission of the app.
“We’re emphasizing sex positive messages that promote healthy relationships and sexual health in this underserved population,” the group said.
Describing how the technology helps reach that goal, the researchers said that the “app uses videos, games, and interactive activities like ‘hooking up’ simulations to emphasize ways to enhance sexual experience while reducing HIV risk.”
The developers pointed to “content on connecting to the LGBTQ community, creating enjoyable sexual encounters, building healthy relationships, self-pleasuring, and sexual communication” as some of the app’s benefits.
They went on to explain that the information available will involve “talking about HIV/STI testing and risk reduction, emphasizing strategies like condom and lube use, partner reduction, and avoidance of concurrent partners.”
The Free Beacon report referenced questions the app asks of users, including a prompt to select their “pleasure profile” with linked descriptions of various levels of sexual preferences.
While some critics have described the NIH funding as inappropriate, developers of the app insist a long period of research has led to the creation of an important piece of technology for a specific group of teens.
“Participants talked about how they often felt they had to manipulate their sexual identity in order to not be in conflict with other identities,” the researchers wrote. “For example, one young man talked about the importance of being perceived as gangster, but then noted: ‘Most people say you can’t be gangster and gay.'”
Gay black teens are also less likely than other segments of the LGBT population to acknowledge the health risks associated with the lifestyle, they said.
Researchers expressed the importance of gaining input directly from those the app is intended to serve.
“We wanted to learn about their sexual health and relationship concerns and challenges and hear their thoughts about what would make the proposed app useful and engaging,” they said.
In addition to providing funding for the T3 app, the combined NIH grants totaling $1,174,555 also included money for an app developed to provide health information for transgender women.
According to dfusion, the company has received funding from the NIH for a total of 26 different research projects.
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