Tinder swipes left on billboard that implies dating apps give you STDs

AIDS Healthcare Foundation billboard in West Hollywood

Tinder is not happy about an LA billboard campaign urging users of popular dating and hookup apps to get tested for sexually transmitted diseases, for free.

In a provocative LA area billboard campaign, The AIDS Healthcare Foundation takes aim at apps like Tinder and Grindr, and implies that people who use those services to connect with sexual partners are at a higher risk for diseases like chlamydia and gonorrhea.

A KCAL9 LA TV reporter reported that one of the billboards was put up just a few blocks from Tinder’s Beverly Boulevard headquarters.

Tinder sent a cease and desist letter to the AHF, demanding the billboards be taken down and arguing that they "falsely" associate the app "with the contraction of venereal diseases."

In the lawyergram, Tinder attorney Jonathan D. Reichman says the AHF billboard's "accusations are made to irreparably harm Tinder's reputation in an attempt to encourage others to take an HIV test offered by your organization."

Reichman says the campaign's "statements" are not based in science, and would not hold up to "critical analysis."

Tinder "strongly supports such testing," he adds, accusing AHF of false advertising, disparagement, libel and interference with Tinder's business. And them's lawsuitin' words.

The AHF sent out a press release today that links to various studies and an article in Vanity Fair to bolster their dubious claim of “rising STD rates found among users of popular dating or “hookup” mobile phone apps.”

In their announcement, the AHF also detailed the responses by Tinder and Grinder:

Within two hours of the billboard posting in Los Angeles (the only market where the boards are currently posted), Grindr, another of the apps highlighted in the campaign, cut off AHF’s paid advertising for its free STD testing services on the site.

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It's time to start asking serious questions about the safety of lube

The stuff you use to make sex a little more smooth might have some serious drawbacks. Nothing has been proven yet — most of the data comes from disembodied cell cultures and animal testing, which doesn't necessarily give you an accurate picture of what's happening in humans — but several studies over the last few years have drawn connections between lubricant use and increased rates of STD transmission. (It also looks like some lubricants might kill off natural vaginal flora — the good bacteria that live "up there" and make the difference between a healthy vagina and, say, a raging yeast infection.)

Some of these studies have provided evidence suggesting that the ingredients in lubricants damage the cells lining the vagina and rectum — which would explain why those lubricants might facilitate STD transmission.

At Chemical and Engineering News, Lauren Wolf has a really well-researched, well-written story that will give you the low-down on this research without hype and without fear-mongering. Her story is easy to understand and explains what we know, what we don't know, and why this matters (besides the obvious, lubricants have been proposed as a possible means of applying topical anti-microbial STD preventatives).

Right now, the Food & Drug Administration doesn’t typically require testing of personal lubricants in humans. The agency classifies them as medical devices, so the sex aids have to be tested on animals such as rabbits and guinea pigs. Rectal use of lubricants is viewed by the agency as an “off-label” application—use at your own risk.

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Resolution for 2013: Don't catch the clap

Over the weekend, during a conversation with "scary disease girl" (and amazing science journalist) Maryn McKenna, I was reminded of a public health issue that we've talked about here before, but which is still not getting enough attention. Gonorrhea (aka "the clap") has long been the STD you worried least about, thanks to easy treatment with antibiotics. But that time is over. Antibiotic resistance is turning gonorrhea into a superbug. As of August, we're down to one antibiotic that can reliably treat it. Your best defense is now, most definitely, offense. Get yourself tested. Make sure your sexual partners are tested (oral sex, too!). And use barrier protection (oral sex, too!) Read the rest

The end of cheap STD control?

More than 700,000 people in the United States probably get gonorrhea each year. I say "probably" because the Centers for Disease Control doesn't know for sure. It's an estimate, because a lot of those cases go untested, unreported, and untreated.

The good news is that, since the 1940s, getting people to get themselves tested has been the hard part. Once you know the gonorrhea is there, antibiotics have made it both easy and cheap to treat. The (more) bad news: That's changing.

At her Superbug blog, Maryn McKenna talks about the threat of antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea—it's not just an issue of health, it's also an issue of how much health costs. So far, there's not been gonorrhea reported that's immune to all the drugs we can throw at it. Just the inexpensive drugs. Anticipating big problems when treating gonorrhea becomes a pricy proposition, the World Health Organization has put together a plan for improving treatment today.

The plan specifically calls out an aspect of the growing resistance problem that we highlighted at SciAm: Community control now depends on rapid molecular tests that identify the gonorrhea organism (Neisseria gonorrhaea) but cannot distinguish between drug-susceptible and antibiotic-resistant organisms. Hence, patients who were treated, and then went back to their doctors with the same symptoms, were assumed to have been cured and then reinfected. Physicians have not had the tools to identify ongoing infections that never responded to treatment — and patients who had those resistant, not-responding infections then went on to unknowingly infect others.

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