LOS ANGELES (October 22, 2015) — Following the explosion of international media attention on a provocative Los Angeles billboard campaign launched in September by AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) to draw attention to the risk of mobile dating app users contracting STDs like gonorrhea and chlamydia, the organization applauded SCRUFF, one of the largest location-based dating apps for gay men, for its statements in support of incorporating STD prevention and treatment messaging into its popular platform. During an October 2nd Huffington Post Live webchat featuring Whitney Engeran-Cordova, Senior Director, Public Health Division for AIDS Healthcare Foundation, SCRUFF Founding Partner and Chief Product Officer Jason Marchant said, “We at SCRUFF feel that we definitely have a social responsibility to do what we can to make our users informed not only of potential risks but also of the resources that are available to them, be it for testing, prevention, treatment or support—be it for HIV or any other STIs.”
SCRUFF, which claims more than 7 million LGBT users worldwide, offers free, geotargeted in-app advertising for non-profit organizations to reach the LGBT community through its BenevolAds program, accessed at ads.scruff.com. “I would invite AHF to sign up for BenovolAds and if they want to create ads that focus on informing people about the resources that are available to them we’re happy to run their ads for free,” offered Marchant during the webchat.
“When other popular mobile dating apps were firing off legal notices or moving to shut down our STD prevention messaging in a knee-jerk reaction to our billboards, SCRUFF is to be commended for taking the more prudent approach by acknowledging the importance of encouraging STD prevention and awareness to their millions of users,” said Whitney Engeran-Cordova, Senior Director, Public Health Division for AIDS Healthcare Foundation. “We are pleased that conversations have begun to discuss how dating apps can be constructive partners in helping educate and connect their users to sexual health screening. Regular testing makes hooking up safer, and, hopefully more enjoyable. There is no shame in knowing your status. Nor should there be any trepidation or shame in asking someone their status.”
As a catalyst for the billboard campaign (which drives viewers to www.FreeSTDCheck.org), AHF looked to one study by the Rhode Island Department of Health, which in May reported that cases of syphilis, gonorrhea and HIV rose sharply between 2013 and 2014 and said that high-risk behaviors such as “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” have become more common in recent years. According to a study by Beymer et al. (2014), gay men who are meeting on location-based dating apps are at greater risk for gonorrhea and chlamydia than those who meet in-person or on the internet.
In addition, a lengthy September 2015 Vanity Fair article entitled “Tinder and the Dawn of the ‘Dating Apocalypse’” explored the role mobile dating apps are increasingly playing in encouraging casual sex among young adults.
AHF will soon be expanding the billboard campaign to other cities in the U.S.
AHF’s Wellness Centers provide free testing for sexually transmitted diseases, including chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and HIV. To find the nearest location for STD screening and treatment, visit www.freestdcheck.org