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Firm sorry for telling gay men they may have anti-HIV ‘cool gene’

Dating sites Grindr and Gaydar pull advert that invited gay men to test for HIV protection gene. Test firm Cool Genes says ‘sorry’
Cool Genes site now has an apology for HIV test ad on Grindr and Gaydar.

Grindr and Gaydar have pulled an advert that invited gay and bi men to find out if they had a ‘cool gene’ that could protect them from HIV.

Now Cool Genes, a firm in Oxford, southern England, has apologized for advertising the £39 ($61 €45) service and said it will rethink the test.

The firm advertised on gay dating app Grindr and site Gaydar under headline ‘Got the cool gene?’

It was promoting a test that could find out whether you have a genetic mutation which makes it less likely you will contract HIV.

But the advert sparked protests on Facebook and Twitter over the weekend.

One of those who protested was Matthew Hodson, of the gay men’s health charity GMFA, who said: ‘With thousands of UK gay men becoming infected with HIV each year, it seems particularly irresponsible to be suggesting to gay men that they may be immune.’

Now the advert has been removed and the Cool Genes firm has put a short statement on its own site, under the headline ‘We are sorry :( [sic]’.

The statement says: ‘We have advertised our HIV resistance test on Gaydar and Grindr and we would like to apologize to all those offended or who felt mislead by the test.

‘Clearly, our attempts to stress the importance of safe sex were not strong enough. We will be re-considering this test and currently we are offering a refund to anyone who ordered the HIV resistance test and feels they have been misguided.’

Simon Johnson, product manager at Gaydar.co.uk, told Gay Star News: ‘Sexual health is of paramount importance to Gaydar and its community, and we take our responsibility on this extremely seriously.

‘Unfortunately we can confirm that for three days this advertisement did feature on our site; as soon as we were made aware of its presence, it was removed immediately.

‘We are in the process of investigating how this advertisement came to appear on the site so we can take the necessary action to ensure that nothing like this can happen again in the future.’

GSN also contacted Grindr for a comment and is yet to hear back.

But Hodson said he is ‘delighted’ both firms removed the advert.

He said: ‘It’s true that some people are less vulnerable to HIV than others, because of a specific gene mutation. However, even if you do have this mutation, it only offers partial protection - it does not guarantee that you will not become infected.

‘Using condoms and lube is a much better method of prevention than a test that tells you that you may be less likely to catch HIV than someone else.’

UPDATE: GSN has subsequently received a comment from Grindr. It states: ‘Grindr serves thousands of ads daily on its network globally and we strive to review all ad content to ensure that the advertising is appropriate for the Grindr community. As soon as users reported this specific ad, we acted quickly to remove the ad from our network.’

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