Throughout the history of human interaction, finding someone to bang and someone to love has always been on the top of the priorities list. But is the dating pool a cesspool of STD/STI (Sexually Transmitted Disease; Sexual Transmitted Infection)? The Center for Disease Control had 1.4 million cases of chlamydia reported in 2014, representing the highest number of reported cases of any condition ever reported to the CDC – with approximately half of the 20 million new diagnosis of STD’s being people between 15-24 years old, these statistics are terrifying but not necessarily surprising. As we all already knew, and research confirms, 18-24 year olds use dating apps more so than any other age group, and do so with great success (i.e. they’re getting laid.)
The top five rated dating sites by consumer-rankings.com: Zoosk, Ourtime, EliteSingles, Match, eHarmony – all offer absolutely zero information about STD testing, statistics, safety tips or even acknowledgment that online dating is a contributing factor to the growing rates of STDs. Grindr and Tinder, the big names in dating apps, also do not include any sexual safety information on the app however do have some online dating safety tips (ex: text a friend the address of your date and your date’s name, just in case).
The statistics of who and why people are using online dating sites is a bit subjective, but the Pew Research Center investigated and states 15% of American adults used online dating in 2015, with 80% of them saying it is a “good way to meet people;” but more importantly: from 2013 to now, the number of 18-24yr olds using these sites has jumped from 10% to 27%. As anyone sitting alone at a bar can tell you: meeting people can be difficult, but apps like Grindr, Tinder, Match are easy ways to begin the conversation with prospective dates instead of mumbling “uh, hey, so you’re like hot…wanna make out?” The 18-24 age group is consistently the highest user of online dating apps and the highest risk for STD’s, especially gonorrhea and chlamydia – but is that really because we all have Tinder on our iphones?
Well, the Rhode Island state health department considers “using social media to arrange casual and often anonymous sexual encounters” a “high risk behavior” and a 2013 New York University study attributed a 16% increase in HIV to the use of Craigslist in 33 states, between 1999 to 2008. It becomes clearer and clearer that there is a connection when specifically looking to the MSM (Men who have Sex with Men) communities: 36% of 7,000 participating gay and bisexual men said they used dating apps, which made them 25% more likely to have chlamydia according to the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center and their 2011-2013 research. So what are we doing about it?
Grindr, one of the most successful dating sites, participated in a study which focused on if the dating site would be a valuable resource to the gay community at large in finding STD/STI information and testing resources (specifically, home testing or testing site locations nearby.) The study went over positively, with approximately 150 visits to clinics per day due to the promotions on the app. So why don’t they install in permanently? One reason is the possible safety threat that it creates: there is still a huge stigma against people with STD/STI’s and initiating a system that documents that personal information on a dating app could lead to “hacks” or general harassment of persons with STD/STI’s trying to date safely online. Some health experts are worried that if apps involve pos/neg status for STD/STI’s then users of the app will not be as observant and safe when initiating sex – if you think you already know someone is “clean” maybe you won’t ask to be tested before having unprotected sex. Apps also don’t want the association between using their product and contracting an STD/STI – keep things positive, but not HIV positive I guess. In Los Angeles, the Aids Healthcare Foundation posted a billboard of “gonorrhea” speaking to “Tinder” next to “chlamydia” speaking to “Grindr” – neither business wanted the association and the billboard quickly came down. To remedy the bad press and bad health of some users, shouldn’t apps like Grindr and Tinder (and Zoosk, Match, EliteSingles etc..) advise safe sex –acknowledging that their users are having sex, acknowledging their role in the changing face of romantic relationships, and acknowledging the importance of safe sex practices all in one?
If you’ve contracted an STD/STI and would still like to participate in 21st century dating, there is a plethora of online dating apps focusing on you: STDmatch.com and PositiveSingles.com are two big dating cites which focus on STD/STI positive peoples. If you aren’t sure about your STD/STI status, please for the love of everything beautiful and for the safety of yourself and your sexual partners, visit gettested.cdc.gov and find local testing sites near you!