There are many reasons I love being off the market, but I’m especially relieved to be away from the rabbit hole of dating apps like Tinder, as it might be contributing to the rise of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in certain places.
According to a recent examination and news release, Rhode Island’s Department of Health found significant STD increases from 2013 to 2014, with syphilis cases growing by nearly 80 percent, gonorrhea infections spiking 30 percent, and HIV diagnoses jumping nearly 33 percent.
What’s likely to blame for some of these scary high numbers? Dating apps, according to the release.
“High-risk behaviors include using social media to arrange casual and often anonymous sexual encounters, having sex without a condom, having multiple sex partners, and having sex while under the influence of drugs or alcohol,” the release reads.
Tinder, which exploded in popularity in 2013 and 2014, could be one of the platforms responsible for this uptick in STDs, as users are known for turning to the app for random hook-ups. Grindr, which launched prior to Tinder and enables gay men to have casual sexual encounters as well, may also be at fault.
Courtney McMorrow, a Salve Regina University junior, told USA Today College that the apps’ STD increases make sense given the fact that users aren’t well-acquainted with each other when they first meet.
“People don’t know what they’re getting into and just kind of go for it,” McMorrow said. “So that could really lead to more of a prevalence.”
University of Rhode Island junior Erin O’Brien pointed out that she’s not sure how many students outright question their sexual partner about their history prior to engaging in sexual activity, and that could be part of the issue at hand.
“I don’t know how many people [get tested] or even ask someone about their history before they hookup,” O’Brien said. “I only know of one girl who actually asks before she does and that’s because she’s part of one of the organizations pushing for students to get tested.”
Though USA Today surveyed 200 students and found many of them use dating apps as a joke, almost 70 percent of participants said they believed hookup apps could spark a rise in STD rates.
Dr. Rosemary Reilly-Chammat, an HIV/AIDS sexuality specialist, said in the Rhode Island release that the STD increase highlights the value of informing young people to take precautions before having sex.
“These new data underscore the importance of encouraging young people to begin talking to a doctor, nurse, or health educator about sexual health before becoming sexually active and especially after becoming sexually active,” Reilly-Chammat said. “It’s never too early to learn about making HIV and STD testing part of routine healthcare. Doctors and nurses are trained to discuss sensitive topics like sex, and conversations with them are confidential. Health educators at schools or community health centers are great resources too.”
In 2013, a New York University study found that Craigslist prompted a 16 percent hike in HIV cases across more than 30 states from 1999 to 2008. The problem is apparently not unique to the United States either; according to Christchurch Sexual Health Clinic, Grindr was connected to more than half of New Zealand’s syphilis cases in 2012. Dr Rosemary Gillespie, chief executive at the UK-based Terrence Higgins Trust, told MailOnline that hookups give people more opportunities than ever before to snag sexual partners. That, of course, comes with immense risk.
“Dating apps have given people more opportunities to meet potential partners than ever before, and we are currently looking at their impact on gay men’s sexual health,” Dr. Gillespie said. “In the meantime, it is really important that the safer sex message stays strong, and that people know how to protect themselves and their partners.”