Representatives at the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV have spoken out against social media sites, such Grindr and Tinder, and accused them of being responsible for the increased rates in sexually transmitted infections (STIs) across the country. They aren’t the only ones either, with Public Health England linking the use of these sites with an increase in the number of syphilis outbreaks reported in 2012.
The obvious thinking behind this accusation is that sites like these make having casual sex easier than ever before. With Grindr in particular, these representatives explain, you can literally find the person in the closest proximity to you, who is up for sex within seconds. They can be at your doorstep, or you on theirs, within minutes.
I am not personally down on these hook up apps, but certainly the fact they exist does heighten the urgency of practicing of safe sex right now. The steady increase of STIs reported year in year out, can only worsen the more available casual sex is to those who look for it. It’s possible that the knowledge that such a facility is out there also increases the number of partakers who otherwise might not have sought out casual sex.
With more sexual health campaigns on the go than ever, the greater access there is to STI treatments, and information at the touch of our fingertips, on our laptops, iPads and even our phones, it is a wonder that STI rates are still climbing steadily.
UK Medix carried out a recent survey including 1,967 people, half were men and half were women, in which they asked questions about STI contraction and, more specifically, where these men and women picked up the STIs they had treated in the past. Alarmingly, 15% said that they caught their STI at a friend’s house and 7% said they picked up their STI at work or in their office at work. Grindr and other such websites didn’t figure here but what is apparent is that people still aren’t having barrier-protected sex. Of those surveyed, on average, it was 8 weeks before participants were tested for STIs after the event, despite 61% saying that they were not using protection at the time.
Perhaps it is a common belief that because there is a pill for everything these days that an STI is part and parcel of a free and unencumbered sexual lifestyle. What most people do not think of are the life-long viruses and infections that stay with people for life after skin to skin contact, such as herpes, genital warts, HPV, and potentially deadly viruses like HIV and syphilis. Currently one third of people who have HIV in Britain don’t even know they have it.
STI kits are even available online these days via reputable sites, such as www.theGUMclinic.com. It is not even necessary to go and see a GP face to face. It is important to check that they are regulated sites and that the laboratories in question are legitimate operations, but there are many of these out there and treatment is often free with a negative result. Whether it’s Grindr or a greater social attitude to the treating of STIs, rates are still high and steadily increasing and some are getting more than they bargained for after unsafe sex.