A Condom Company Advertised On Tinder And Used AIDS As A Punchline
It turns out AIDS jokes are frowned upon these days. Who knew?
A series of ads for condom company Hero have backfired in Australia, with sexual health campaigners saying they stigmatise people with HIV and AIDS and contain significant factual errors.
The advertising campaign launched on Tinder on Monday night, and features a series of anthropomorphised STIs introducing themselves with tongue-in-cheek biographies.
"My ideal date would start with a single unusual sore. I'd then spice things up with skin rashes and sores in your mouth, vagina and bum. Romantic much?", says "Sydphilis".
While "Jonorrhoea" tells users to "Swipe right if you're looking for something serious. Infertile kind of serious."
Another fake profile, "Chadmydia", asks if anyone is down for some "cervix and chill".
Hero Condoms CEO David Wommelsdorff told AdNews the campaign is designed to promote a message of safe sex.
"Critical to our efforts to reach youth and destigmatise the use of condoms, is to encourage young people that being prepared is actually being sexy," he said.
"Carrying a condom should not be seen as a sign of bravado or promiscuity but rather a symbol that you are in charge of your own sexual health and that of your partner(s)."
But two profiles that appear to poke fun at people living with AIDS have angered many.
Two characters, named "Aydes" and "Aidy", offer jokes about HIV and AIDS.
"Knock knock. Who's there? AIDS 😂 ," says Aidy, while Aydes tells people to "only swipe right if you like incurable diseases."
The two profiles relating to AIDS have been removed from Hero's website but are still circulating on social media.
Nic Holas, the co-founder of The Institute of Many, an umbrella group for HIV-positive people, told BuzzFeed News the ads trivialise HIV.
"Beyond the factual errors, the campaign associates human characteristics with STIs, reinforcing the idea that certain types of people are to blame for STIs. Avoiding a 'certain type of person' isn't how you avoid contracting STIs," he said.
"It contributes to stigma surrounding STIs, which is precisely what leads to people not getting tested and treated for them."
Holas said the AIDS-related ads in particular are offensive and factually incorrect.
"The most glaring [errors] are the AIDS-related profiles. AIDS is a syndrome that you can't catch off a Tinder root.
"The profiles ramp up the horror story narrative with STI symptoms and treatments, i.e. penile swabs which is an outdated and abandoned practice."
People have taken to the Hero condoms Facebook page to complain.
The company's co-founder, Dustin Leonard, conceded that the ads had not made a clear enough distinction between HIV and AIDS, but did not apologise for using AIDS as a punchline.
"The aim of this campaign was to destigmatise condom use. It was never our intention to single out people living with HIV or AIDS," he said.
"Would the response have been different if we'd made similar jokes about STIs other than HIV or AIDS? We would never want to stigmatise people living with AIDS."
"The ads have been very well received. We've had coverage in Mashable the New York Daily News, and the Daily Mail. I think there's been one negative article."
Even singer Troye Sivan criticised the campaign.
"The goal of this campaign was to get people talking and thinking about safe sex and we appreciate you joining the discussion. We appreciate your views on the ways in which we could make this more inclusive and effective." "It was and is not our intention to isolate or stigmatise anyone who has an STI and would welcome the opportunity to sit down with you to discus future communication.""Health experts say that the rates of certain STIs (such as HIV and Gonorrhoea) are on the rise in Australia, in many cases, among young people. This campaign was designed to connect directly with young people and bring awareness to the fact that many people may not even know they have an STI." "Condoms help protect against STIs and it is important for us to continue encouraging anyone who is sexually active to protect themselves and their partner(s) from health risks."
Tinder has been contacted for further comment.