In response to criticism from advocacy groups, Tinder has recently added a new Health Safety page with information about sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including information about prevention, communication and testing.
The page communicates traditional information about STI prevention, including the consistent use of condoms and other forms of protection, as well as information about vaccinations for some STIs. The site also provides a link to an STI testing centre and emphasizes the fact that many STIs are asymptomatic (meaning that they may not show symptoms, even when somebody has them and can still pass them to other partners), therefore regular testing is important even if you don’t show symptoms.
“From a scientific standpoint, most STIs are asymptomatic at first” said third-year Brock Biomedical Sciences student Eve Ameen. “You don’t know you have it until you’ve already spread it, and then it just keeps on spreading out after.”
One part of the sexual health guide also emphasizes open communication between partners, which is an area of STI prevention that people often don’t think of when considering how to stay safe during sexual encounters.
“It’s completely reasonable to have a conversation with your partner regarding sex before actually having it,” according to the guide. “All issues ranging from the number of partners each of you has had, to the last time each of you was tested for STDs are fair game. It is important to be completely honest in these conversations.”
The decision to include this page was largely incited by a conflict with Los Angeles advocacy group AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which produced a campaign that associated mobile dating and hookup apps with the spread of STIs. The campaign included a controversial billboard in which silhouettes labeled “chlamydia” and “gonorrhea” share intimate poses with other figures labeled “Grindr” and “Tinder.”
Tinder fought back against these ads, and their attorney Jonathan Reichman called them “unprovoked” and “unsubstantiated.” This issue raises questions about the level of ethical responsibility that the creators of technology have for the way that people use their technology. Just because people use Tinder for hookups, it is questionable whether Tinder is responsible for the way they behave during those hookups, and it is also questionable whether or not those people would have still demonstrated similar behaviour even without a mobile app.
“If you argue that Tinder increases the rate of hookups occurring, and therefore raises the rate of STIs, then that does make sense,” said Ameen. “However, regardless of Tinder, people who don’t get tested before hooking up, but still do it anyway, will still exist outside of Tinder. This behaviour still exists, regardless of the app.”
However, with Tinder’s choice to release the sexual health guide on their website, the feud seems to have ended, and the advocacy group has chosen to halt their campaign. Some critics have questioned the effectiveness of the information in preventing the spread of STIs, citing the difficulty of actually accessing the page or finding it within the app or website. The page also contains information that some would argue is common sense (such as using a condom), leading some to be skeptical about the actual usefulness of the guide.
However, Ameen stressed that regardless of the usefulness or originality of the actual information, its presence alone is important because of the statement that presence makes. Even if people don’t learn anything new from the content, they will likely be more willing to listen to it than to other sources (such as parents or high school sexual education) because it is provided by a more “stylish” and culturally popular medium.
“It definitely reduces stigma” said Ameen. “Having something as hip and popular as Tinder with that information will encourage people to get tested. It takes away the stigma that STI testing is something embarrassing or uncool, and instead normalizes it. It emphasizes that everyone should be tested for STIs. If you are sexually active, then you should get tested.”