Safer sex is just a swipe away

Brooklyn Dippo | The USD Vista | News Editor

One of the billboards that the AHF put up around Los Angeles.

One of the billboards that the AHF put up around Los Angeles.

The app that makes finding a partner as simple as swiping right is now offering another location-based service. Tinder has nearly 50 million users according to the New York Times including students at the University of San Diego.

In response to a nationwide increase in sexually transmitted infections (STIs) that have been widely attributed to dating apps, Tinder has added a health safety section to their website that allows users to locate the nearest clinic offering free STD and HIV testing.

Controversial billboards put up by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) last September were the catalysts for the development of Tinder’s health safety section. The billboards depicted silhouettes of individuals with Grindr and Tinder across their face about to kiss partners who had chlamydia and gonorrhoea written across their faces.

Grindr, a mobile dating app for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and curious individuals, responded to the campaign by removing the AHF’s paid advertisement from their site. Initially, Tinder responded with a cease and desist letter to AHF claiming that the campaign aimed to damage Tinder’s reputation.

Another billboard posted by the Aids Healthcare Foundation.

Another billboard posted by the Aids Healthcare Foundation.

AHF responded to Tinder’s request a week later denying that they made any false statements. They cited a Vanity Fair article and a report by the Rhode Island Department of Health that both discuss the role dating apps play in encouraging high-risk behaviors such as casual sex.

In the letter Chief Counsel for Operations of AHF, Laura Boudreau, also encouraged Tinder to support public health.

“AHF urges Tinder to support its message of sexual health awareness by encouraging Tinder users to get tested for STIs and to get treated promptly if they have an infection,” Boudreau said.

The new health safety section has information about prevention as well as a link to Healthvana’s free HIV and STD testing locator. Healthvana is a mobile app used as a patient engagement platform and was the first app to offer patients HIV test results. When Tinder added this new feature, AHF took down the controversial billboards.

Senior Chloe Spilotro thinks that the feature was well overdue.

“I’m glad Tinder has included this new section,” Spilotro said. “You can never be reminded too much to be cautious with your sexual health. However, I do think that this is a section that should have always been included.”

Students have many options for where to go for STI screenings including the Student Health Center. While this is a convenient option for taking care of physical health, Pamela Sikes, the Director of the Student Health Center, recommends a more inclusive approach to sexual health for students.

“Sexual health includes physical, emotional, mental, relational, and social well-being,” Sikes said. “It is not merely safer-sex practices or absence of disease.”

Nevertheless, it is important to screen and treat STIs, especially for women. Chlamydia and gonorrhoea, which are both common and often symptomless, can cause pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility if untreated.

With access to nearby and free testing locations, students can prevent or treat issues of sexual well-being at a time when STIs are on the rise.