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Gay hook-up app won't alert gay men of outbreak for free

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Los Angeles LGBT Community Center chief marketing officer, Jim Key is no stranger to reaching out to the LGBT public to inform them of possibly deadly diseases.

His work during the AIDS crisis in the  80’s and 90’s helped many who may have not had access to mainstream media or thought they couldn’t be affected.

So it wasn’t a surprise that after a recent outbreak of potentially fatal meningitis that Key quickly pulled from his past experiences and gave them a modern update.

Comparing the use of hook-up apps to the gay bathhouses of yesteryear, the writer began to reflect on how this new technology could and should be used to warn people of a potentially serious health threats in the gay community.

What he found was that some companies shared his concern and began posting warnings on their home screens before anyone had a chance to start flirting.

Companies such as Grind’r, Scruff and Hornet had no qualms about giving their subscribers a heads up, but two other well-known swipe-and-type dating apps were not so concerned with the public health of their demographic as they were about the health of their revenue.

According to Key’s article in The Advocate, officials of Online-Buddies, the parent company for the apps Manhunt and Jack’d had more of a “show me the money” attitude rather than "How can we help?"

Los Angeles is now immersed in its second outbreak of meningitis, the previous rash of the transmittable disease happened two years ago killing three young men.

Key became concerned when he reached out to the senior health strategist who is also the director of advertising for Manhunt and Jack’d, after saying he understood the need for warnings of this nature, the "strategist" qualified his response with, “Note we require full prepayment before launching any campaigns.”

The writer was a little surprised at the response and decided to give them the benefit of the doubt, thinking they may have misunderstood his intentions.

Key writes: “We just needed to quickly make those at risk of infection aware of the outbreak and encourage people to get vaccinated. That’s all we were asking. Bacterial meningitis can kill within a few days of exposure, and one-third of those who survive are permanently disabled.”

To make sure there wasn't a misunderstanding, Key emailed the health-care strategist once again, and got this response: “Sorry if I wasn’t clear. We do not offer any free campaigns.”

It was time to take his concerns to the CEO, but that lead him to a dead end and he was directed back to the same health care strategist as before, “if and when you receive funding for your campaign."

Key does point out that Online-Buddies does have a health blog through manhunt.com, but all you find there is, "recent posts criticizing a public service announcement to promote PrEP and the review of a product that’s supposed to make your penis stronger."

If it's not clear in this article, meningitis can be a fatal disease especially if your immune system is already compromised. 

Key implores that people get vaccinated as soon as possible. 

In San Diego, you can find resources and information about health and wellness at The San Diego LGBT Center's website by clicking HERE

You can read the full article in The Advocate HERE.

Jim Key is the chief marketing officer for the Los Angeles LGBT Center. Follow him on Twitter@jamesdkey.