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Hula, The STD App, Managed To Offend All Of Hawaii

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It’s a good time to be an awkward spring breaker. After all, there’s an app that helps you get laid in any situation. There’s Grindr for gay hook-ups, Tinder for straights, 3ndr for threesomes, and Pure for making sweet love. There’s even an app to find out if you’re good at sex at all.

And now, after you try them all out, there’s an app that helps you get tested for STDs.

That app is called Hula, because, according to an earlier version of its marketing, “it helps you get lei’d.” By connecting users to various STD testing facilities and providing a Yelp-like platform to review them, Hula allows users to make their results public, thus taking out some of the awkwardness and secrecy surrounding HIV and STD discussions.

CEO Ramin Bastani explains on the company's website that, “I started the company in 2010 because a girl slapped me in the face after I asked if she'd been tested ... There has to a better way to have this conversation."

While Bastani's intentions -- promoting better sexual health -- are hard to argue with, he has recently come under attack by many who think the app's name is offensive. Hula, after all, is a traditional Hawaiian dance considered by many indigenous Hawaiians to be sacred, and many Hawaiians have expressed anger that hula would be used to promote sex.

Dr. Diane Paloma, the director of the Native Hawaiian Health Program at Queens Medical Center in Honolulu, told the Huffington Post that "The biggest offense to me was the inappropriate use of hula and a vital piece of Hawaiian culture and the use of ‘getting lei'd'."

Paloma also pointed to the inherent irony of the name, since the native Hawaiian population experienced considerable demise after westerners introduced infectious diseases -- such as venereal disease -- to the islands.

But Bastani swears Hula is not a hook-up app and that the company meant no harm. (The "getting lei'd" phrase has since been removed from the website and all marketing materials.) "The vertical we're interested in is sexual health," he told the Huffington Post. "Our initial thought behind the name was based on its popular cultural association. Anything Hawaiian -- palm trees, luau, lei -- represents a sense of beauty and being relaxed. Those two feelings are the opposite feelings that most people have around healthcare and health in a bad position."

While Bastani has been consulting with Paloma to better understand Native Hawaiian concerns, he says he has no plans to change the name.

But pressure is mounting. After various local media outlets in Hawaii covered the story, a petition on change.org demanding the name be changed has picked up steam. Petitioners say that the use of hula in this way “harms native Hawaiians everywhere.”

The petition is still far from its goal of 100,000 signees, but perhaps Bastani just needs a good alternative name to edge him along. Something that addresses his app's do-good intentions, sexual innuendo, and venereal disease focus all in one neat package.

Might we suggest 'Missionary'?

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article stated incorrectly that the change.org petition had a goal of 10,000 signees. It is 100,000.

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