Condom company Hero is under fire for a controversial Tinder ad campaign that uses AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections as the main punchline.
The advertising campaign, which launched on Tinder in Australia on Monday night, features a series of anthropomorphised STIs complete with offensive biographies.
Two profiles, named “Aydes” and “Aidy”, feature jokes about HIV and AIDS in their bios.
“Knock knock. Who’s there? AIDS ? ,” says “Aidy.”
“Aydes” tells people to “only swipe right if you like incurable diseases.”
Both profiles have since been removed from Hero’s website.
“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”.
“Jonorrhoea” encourages users to “Swipe right if you’re looking for something serious. Infertile kind of serious.”
“Chadmydia” asks if someone is down “for a bit of cervix and chill”.
Hero Condoms CEO David Wommelsdorff told AdNews that his campaign was created 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).”
“Beyond the factual errors, the campaign associates human characteristics with STIs, reinforcing the idea that certain types of people are to blame for STIs,” said Nic Holas, the co-founder of The Institute of Many. “Avoiding a ‘certain type of person’ isn’t how you avoid contracting STIs,” he told Buzzfeed.
“It contributes to stigma surrounding STIs, which is precisely what leads to people not getting tested and treated for them. 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 The profiles ramp up the horror story narrative with STI symptoms and treatments, i.e. penile swabs which is an outdated and abandoned practice.”
Hero’s co-founder, Dustin Leonard, refused to apologize for the campaign although he did concede that Hero had not made a clear enough distinction between HIV and AIDS.
“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.”
Hero has since responded to the backlash with this message:
“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.”
Singer Troye Sivan condemned the ad campaing on twitter: