A new longform analysis in Vox has linked rising STD rates to the use of online dating apps.
The article cites 2015 data on the population of Rhode Island, which found rapid year-on-year increases in the prevalence of HIV, syphilis and gonorrhea.
The officials who released the data attributed the rise to better screening methods in part, but also to “casual and often anonymous sexual encounters”.
The article claims that “health experts increasingly view apps and sites such as Tinder, Grindr, and OkCupid as enablers of high-risk sex”.
Dan Wohlfeiler, director of Building Healthy Online Communities, draws an analogy between modern dating platforms and bathhouses – the latter were once popular meeting places for gay men, and were targeted by HIV-prevention campaigns accordingly.
A big problem in the online dating industry, Vox asserts, is that key players prefer to wash their hands of the negative health impacts apps are having.
The piece argues that companies prefer to distance themselves, as they do not want to have any association in the public mind with infectious disease.
“They realize that their sites could be stigmatized for being associated with STDs. They do as little as possible”, says STD Researcher Jeffrey Klausner.
Some individuals in the health community have bought advertising space on the apps, and this is touted as one avenue for progress by the article.
Researchers in Indiana bought Grindr popups advertising HIV self-tests – an approach which is said to have had promising results.
In the UK, apps are facing calls from the National Health Service to advertise locations where users can find free contraception.
The article also stresses, however, that correlations between dating app use and STD prevalence should not be read as causal. It may be the case that more sexually active individuals use dating apps, rather than dating apps making people more sexually active.
Read the full article here.