Tinder has sent a cease and desist letter to the AIDS Healthcare Foundation after a billboard went up in Los Angeles last week that draws a link between dating apps and a growing rate of sexually transmitted diseases.
The foundation said the billboard’s purpose is to raise awareness about the increasing STD rate and to encourage dating-app users to get regular screenings or a “free STD check.” The billboard features silhouettes of people and the words “Tinder, Chlamydia, Grindr, Gonorrhea.”
“In many ways, location-based mobile dating apps are becoming a digital bathhouse for millennials wherein the next sexual encounter can literally just be a few feet away—as well as the next STD,” Whitney Engeran-Cordova, the foundation’s public health division director, said in a statement.
“While these sexual encounters are often intentionally brief or even anonymous, sexually transmitted diseases can have lasting effects on an individual’s personal health and can certainly create epidemics in communities at large,” the statement continued.
But Tinder, a location-based dating app, has fired back, saying the ad wrongly associates the app with venereal disease.
“These unprovoked and wholly unsubstantiated accusations are made to irreparably damage Tinder’s reputation in an attempt to encourage others to take an HIV test by your organization,” Tinder attorney Jonathan Reichman said in a letter to the foundation.
The foundation responded that it would not remove the billboard. It also referenced a Vanity Fair article that attributed a boom in casual hookups to the emergence of dating apps like Tinder.
The foundation also cited a report from the Rhode Island Department of Health that said STD rates in that state increased from 2013 to 2014.
According to the report, “high-risk behaviors include using social media to arrange casual and often anonymous sexual encounters, having sex without a condom, having multiple sex partners, and having sex while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.”
The foundation also linked to a study published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, which reported gay men who used dating apps for meeting sexual partners were more likely to test positive for gonorrhea and chlamydia.
Grindr, a location-based app for gay men, has also dropped the foundation’s paid ads for free STD testing, according to the foundation.
“We were surprised at the approach [the foundation] took, and paused the campaign in order to speak with them and assess our relationship,” Grindr said about cutting the ads.
Grindr says it has always been concerned with the issues of men’s health by providing educational campaigns, conducting research on healthcare issues affecting the gay community and partnering with health organizations on national studies. The app has devoted a section of its website to health issues and runs public service announcements encouraging testing in its app, Grindr says.
“As one of the world’s largest gay platforms, we take this issue very seriously,” Grindr said. “At the end of the day, we are all on the same side in this issue, and strive to work with our partners and advocacy groups to achieve similar goals. A more connected and informed gay community is a better thing for us all.”
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