Combined cases of gonorrhea, syphilis and chlamydia hit an all-time high in 2016, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), and experts are blaming dating apps.
“The types of risky behavior that we’ve seen a dramatic increase in are related to the use of online apps for sexual encounters that are usually anonymous,” John Auerbach, president and CEO of Trust for America's Health, said. “And if they’re anonymous, there is a greater challenge in terms of carrying out some of the traditional STD prevention measures.”
Syphilis and gonorrhea have both increased by 18 percent from 2015 to 2016, according to the CDC, and Auerbach said in order to stop an epidemic everyone that could be exposed or infected needs to be identified, which is only possible if the person knows who they have had sexual encounters with.
Erika Ettin founded the company A Little Nudge to help people with their online dating profiles, and said she has seen an increase in the use of these apps.
“People are quicker to move to the bedroom, especially people whose goals are to just have casual sex," Ettin said.
Two of the more popular of these apps is Tinder and Bumble, which both have millions of users, with Tinder having 1 million dates every week and 1.6 billion swipes every day, according to the company’s website.
Ettin said it would make sense that an increase in the use of dating apps, which increases sexual activity, would then increase the number of STDs, but that it would not be the dating apps responsibility to help users prevent STDs.
“They want to make money as much as anyone else does, so if their users are happy, why would they want to scare them away?" Ettin said.
But Auerbach disagrees. “I do believe the apps can be more responsible themselves and various ways that can be done is by putting information on those sites that reaches everyone about the risks associated with STDs,” he said.
Director of Grindr equality Jack Harrison-Quintana said they do provide resources for STD prevention on the app. A link to an FAQ for these resources can be found in two locations on the app, including the edit profile page so everyone has access to it.
"Our commitment broadly is to empower our users to make create choices about their health, whether that’s sexual health, mental health or other forms of health that particularly impact LGBTQ people," Harrison-Quintana said.
Harrison-Quintana said all the research he has seen about the rise of STDs and increase in dating apps use has been a correlation and not causation.
“It’s really important to also point to the things that we really know are driving global rates of HIV And STIs and we have a role in changing those too. So those are things like bad sex education in schools, homophobia, laws that make being LGBTQ illegal,” he said.
Auerbach said that though many of these STDS are treatable, they still can have serious consequences
“A dramatic increase in the number of women who are positive for STD that then give birth to a baby who has congenital sexually transmitted disease and a congenital illness in a baby can also be very serious for the baby and in some instances, it can result in death," Auerbach said.
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