Dating apps Tinder and Grindr are clashing with an AIDS foundation that put up dozens of billboards in Los Angeles blaming the company for the spread of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and encouraging people to get tested.
The AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), established in the 1980s in the wake of the AIDS outbreak, mounted a number of billboards featuring two silhouettes with the words "Tinder" and "chlamydia" over them. Right beside them is a male silhouette, with the Grindr logo, kissing another man with the word "gonorrhea" over his face. It also promoted testing via FreeSTDCheck.org.
Representatives of Tinder and Grindr have spoken out and called for the billboards to be taken down, but the AHF stands by its ads.
Tinder sent [pdf] the AHF a cease-and-desist letter, stating that the "unprovoked and wholly unsubstantiated accusations are made to irreparably damage" its reputation. It claims to support HIV testing but asserts the billboards' pronouncements "are not founded upon any scientific evidence" and are unable to "withstand critical analysis."
The AHF responded [pdf] to Tinder within a week, citing related media and government reports as bases for the ads and saying it had not "made any false or disparaging statements against Tinder."
A spokesperson for location-based gay dating app Grindr announced the company has also pulled the AHF's ads from its in-app advertising amid the controversy.
"As one of the world’s largest gay platforms, we take this issue very seriously," said the Grindr rep, adding that Grindr has always been concerned with men's health issues by providing educational campaigns, doing research on healthcare matters surrounding the gay community, and partnering with health groups on natural studies.
How can one then disclose in these online dating apps that he or she is positive for STI?
Jenelle Marie Davis, founder and executive director of the STD Project, advised noting in the dating profile that one is HSV+ (herpes simplex positive), using the number 437737 (spells out HERPES on a touch-tone phone), or waiting it out—bringing it up before engaging in sexual activity.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows there are about 20 million new cases of STIs every year in the country.