EDWARDSVILLE — A plan by the Madison County Health Department to purchase advertising on a gay social network app to promote HIV testing ran into some problems at the County Board’s Finance Committee meeting Wednesday.
The department has proposed spending $5,500 for pop-up ads on Grindr, a social network app site that primarily serves gay men, according to Health Department Administrator Toni Corona.
The purchase would be part of a larger grant aimed at promoting HIV awareness.
The Finance Committee tabled the issue. However, the Health Committee, which met a short time after the Finance Committee, approved bringing the issue before the full County Board.
When the issue was brought up at the Finance Committee, County Administrator Doug Hulme said the administration wanted to pull it from consideration, in part because of concerns about spending money locally, rather than with the California-based Grindr. The other issue was the controversial nature of the ad.
“The administration would prefer spending locally,” Hulme said. “I think we could find a less controversial way to spend that money and reach the target audience.”
Corona said the Health Department had purchased a similar ad that ran December through March, and they had a lot of success with it.
The ad allows people to immediately access the Health Department’s HIV awareness program.
She said in February the site received 954 hits, another 851 in March. In April, after the ad campaign was over, the site received nine hits.
The earlier ad did not come before the Finance Committee or County Board because the total cost was less than $5,000.
“It’s not promoting risky sexual activity,” Corona said. “That’s already happening.”
After a great deal of debate, the Finance Committee voted to table the issue. Chairman Lisa Ciampoli, R-Collinsville and a vocal supporter of the ad, voted against tabling the issue.
At the Health Committee meeting, where Ciampoli is also a member, the proposal got a better reception. It was also noted several times that some of the Health Department’s issues “will make some people leave their comfort zone.”
The Health Committee voted 4-1 in favor of bringing the issue to the full County Board, with Chrissy Dutton, R-Bethalto, voting no. She had expressed concerns that she did not have enough information, and that there might be a better way to market the program.
Voting in favor were Chairman Michael “Doc” Holliday Sr., D-Alton; Robert Pollard, I-East Alton; Jack Minner, D-Edwardsville; and Ciampoli.
Reach reporter Scott Cousins at 618-208-6447.