Dating apps that pinpoint interested people down to the nearest metre blamed for soaring sex infections. Match-making and hook up apps and firms have proved explosively popular, especially among those in their 20s and 30s, providing users with lists of potential sexual partners close by.
Peter Greenhouse, of the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV, said: ‘You don’t have to be a genius to work out that these sorts of apps make having casual sex a damn sight easier… Thanks to Grindr or Tinder, you can acquire chlamydia in five minutes’
‘You can find, down to a metre or two, the nearest available person who is interested. This is something that just hasn’t been available before.’
Gonorrhoea cases in England jumped 15% between 2012 and 2013, according to new official figures, from 25,577 to 29,291. Syphilis cases went up 9%, from 2,981 to 3,249.
In Northern Ireland last year:
• New diagnoses of uncomplicated chlamydia increased by 1%; 1,699 diagnoses in 2013 compared with 1,676 in 2012.
• New diagnoses of uncomplicated gonorrhoea increased by 19%; 537 in 2013 compared with 451 in 2012.
• New diagnoses of genital herpes simplex (first episode) increased by 8%; 385 in 2013 compared with 357 in 2012.
• New diagnoses of genital warts (first episode) decreased by 9%; 1,989 in 2013 compared with 2,190 in 2012.
• New diagnoses of infectious syphilis increased by 3%; 72 in 2013 compared with 70 in 2012.
Millions now use Grindr and Tinder which allows people to connect on their phones. Advocates say it works because it is spontaneous and discreet, but critics believe it is making casual sex more normal.
The companies behind these apps argue no firm evidence yet exists to link them to rises in STIs. But a spokesman for Public Health England said: ‘The only way to get protection from STIs is to practise safer sex.’
As a policy, Grindr bans users from mentioning they are looking for unprotected intimate activity, and will remove profiles of those who violate that regulation.
Grindr spokesman Justin Howard also says they try to promote safe sex in messages that appear when users log in, and occasionally list nearby clinics where users can get tested.
He says: ‘We try to educate and inform in a fun and engaging way.
In Northern Ireland during 2013:
• 94 new first-UK cases of HIV were diagnosed in Northern Ireland, a rate of 7.8 per 100,000 population aged 15–59 years (14.1 per 100,000 males and 1.6 per 100,000 females)
• 54 (57%) new HIV diagnoses occurred through MSM transmission. The majority of these cases were born in the UK (72%:39/54) and of those 39, 90% (35/39) acquired their infection in the UK
• 29 (31%) new HIV diagnoses occurred through heterosexual transmission. Forty-five percent (13/29) were born in the UK and of those 13, 46% (6/13) acquired their infection in the UK
• 749 HIV-infected residents of Northern Ireland (as defined when last seen for statutory medical HIV-related care in 2013) received care
• of those receiving care, 54% (408/749) acquired their infection through sexual contact involving MSM and 42% (312/749) acquired their infection through heterosexual contact
• 56,339 HIV tests were carried out in Northern Ireland, of which 25,789 were performed as part of the antenatal screening programme
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