WASHINGTON — A slogan sounding similar to one used unofficially by supporters of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has spread across the nation's capital. New billboards reading “Feel The Burn?,” with red and white swoops and “FreeSTDCheck.org” are up near metro and bus stops as of Saturday.
The ads are part of a campaign by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), a nonprofit for HIV prevention, testing and treatment, to promote a website that hosts an online directory of testing centers for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) as well as educational materials such as research papers and responses to frequently asked questions.
The billboards were first seen last month in Los Angeles, where the nonprofit is based, and will soon be coming to New York City subway platforms, AHF told International Business Times.
Sanders’ popularity among young voters had inspired the organization’s creative for the campaign. “Feel The Bern” is not the official slogan of the Sanders campaign but has been adopted by supporters.
“Sen. Sanders’ powerful message resonates with a lot of Americans, particularly young people,” said Jason Farmer, senior director of creative at AIDS Healthcare Foundation, in a statement. “We hope that our lighthearted — but highly important — billboard campaign for STD testing will as well.”
Those "feel the burn" std ads are now in D.C. pic.twitter.com/ggN5ixVZXR
— Hunter Schwarz (@hunterschwarz) April 23, 2016
AHF’s website displays another new ad that looks like Netflix’s logo and reads, “Get Tested and Chill,” which is also inspired by a popular millennial meme. That design comes after several other awareness campaigns the organization has done in the past years.
A previous AHF campaign had inspired Tinder to take action. In September, the AHF sponsored an ad that had silhouettes of people’s heads with the words “Tinder, Chlamydia, Grindr and Gonorrhea.” Tinder issued a cease-and-desist letter to the AHF, the Los Angeles Times reported.
AHF agreed to take down the billboards and any other ads mentioning Tinder only after the company added a section to its website and mobile app on Healthy Safety. The change happened in January, four months after the first ad.
AHF has not received a cease-and-desist letter from the Sanders campaign. The campaign has not and will not send one, Michael Briggs, a spokesman for Bernie Sanders, told IBT.
Sanders has spoken repeatedly on his support for healthcare, including funding for Planned Parenthood. “[H]ealth care must be recognized as a right, not a privilege,” Sanders wrote on a 2013 blog in the Huffington Post.
AHF's campaigns follow several reports on STD increases linked to the rise of dating apps. The Rhode Island Department of Health attributed "social networks" to a 33 percent increase in HIV cases, 79 percent in syphilis cases and 30 percent in gonorrhea cases, but such a study has not been performed by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC has estimated that people age 15-24 account for half of 20 million sexually transmitted infections each year in the United States.
Launched in 1987, AHF is the largest service organization focused on AIDS and provides care in 15 U.S. states and 36 countries.