An alarming rise in sexually transmitted diseases in states like Southern California causing many to believe these STD infection rates surge is being attributed to social media. The two most affected groups are youths and members of the LGBT community, according to local NBC affiliate in Sacramento, KRCA 3.
Social media expert Thomas Dodson, who spoke with KCRA, told a reporter that he held several focus groups in which he noted the rise of sexual activity spawned by social media itself.
Health department officials in some U.S. states, such as Rhode Island, have blamed the rise of sexually transmitted diseases on social media tools like Tinder and Grindr, which allow users to search for potential partners with the simple swipe of a screen.
CAN WE BLAME IT ON MORE SEXTING.
“Mobile dating apps are rapidly altering the sexual landscape by making casual sex as easily available as ordering a pizza,” Whitney Engeran-Cordova, Senior Director, Public Health Division for the organization behind the billboards, AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) said in a press release. “We want to remind sexually active adults—especially young people—how easy it can be to contract an STD and the importance of undergoing regular screenings to protect their sexual health.”
Dodson cited contributing factors such as “constant connectivity” (apps such as Tinder and Grindr come to mind), “the pictures that they are sharing” (sexting has recently been on the rise, even in the popular app Instagram), and “access to the worldwide web that they [people] have.”
KCRA 3 reports that a recent study by the LGBT center said, “Men who use smart apps such as Grindr are 25% more likely to be affected with gonorrhea and 37% with chlamydia.”
More Behind the Risky Behaviors.
Linking the data and claims isn’t as black and white. It’s very easy for policy-makers and other public health officials to make these broad statements about the apps being the reason that STD’s are spiking,” said Ian Holloway, assistant professor of social welfare at UCLA who has done research into these issues. “But we don’t really have data to support that.
“We don’t know if apps are driving these epidemiological trends.”
The apps obviously facilitate meeting, he said, and for those interested in having sex with a lot of people, they would be a logical place to look. However, there are in-person venues, like bars, where some are also just looking to have sex.
“We have always known that casual hookups are more likely to contribute to increased rates of STI transmission. To the extent that social media could be enabling these hookups to occur more often/frequently, social media would also be contributing to the STD rate increases we are seeing.”
One effective solution is proper education and establishing responsibility around one’s sexual health. This starts with knowing (being fully aware) of the health and status of your sexual partners. Failing to (establish) this access into your partners’ sexual health is like playing with risks which can impact your life and future,” expressed Dr. Lawrence D. Jaeger – who does private STD testing at Central Park Medical Associates in NYC.
While it’s certainly possible hookup apps are playing a role in the increase of these infections, there are other factors to consider.
Better reporting and increased public awareness about sexually transmitted diseases may be encouraging more people to get tested, bumping up the numbers, said Holloway.
David Brennan, a University of Toronto associate professor of social work, acknowledged that more people are using hookup apps at the same time rates for sexually transmitted diseases are going up.
“With HIV being a treatable virus, some may engage in “treatment optimism” and be more casual about protection and less worried about infections because they believe they can be treated for all potential sexually transmitted diseases,” said David Brennan.