Public health officials in Britain raised alarm and sparked some ire by blaming the rising rates of syphilis and gonorrhea among gay men on the widespread use of mobile hookup apps. Other experts argue that the cause-and-effect relationship is not clear enough to make such a broad conclusion.
Industry insiders say that education and intervention are more important than placing blame on a technology used as a means of accessing sexual partners. The truth, they say, is that people will have sexual relations whether they meet in a bar, coffee shop, at the gym, online or with a mobile app. If people can make decisions about meeting new partners and engaging in relationships through apps, it can also be said that there is a unique opportunity to inform people about serious issues that should be on their minds.
Ease of Access
“Thanks to Grindr or Tinder, you can acquire chlamydia in five minutes,” said Peter Greenhouse, spokesman for the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV. Support for this statement comes from recent studies showing that gay men who find partners using apps have a greater chance of testing positive for sexually transmitted infections like gonorrhea and chlamydia than men who find partners at bars or via online hookup sites. In the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control confirms an increase in the rates of syphilis among gay and bisexual men who have sex with other men, but they did not affix a reason to the statistics.
The Continuing Human Search for Connection Goes Mobile
People have always filled a longing for human connection by finding compatible people. Some fortunate people find a satisfying partner and get married, stay faithful and enjoy the benefits of a stable relationship. Others search for new sexual partners by meeting many different people and starting new relationships.
The digital age has given many people new venues and outlets for sexual exploration and discovery. From watching others engage in sex to meeting new partners online through social networks and websites designed to bring people together, people have put computers to active use in the age-old quest to connect and experience human sexuality.
Do Apps Cause Sex and Infection, or Just Make Them Too Easy to Get?
Some experts dispute the connection between the report’s statistical data and any device or method of meeting new partners. Studies show much stronger links between crystal meth users who have sex with other men and the incidence of sexual transmitted infections.
Education and Outreach
Some in the mobile app industry believe that the study should not blame a type of technology, but use it to encourage effective action such as:
- Studying – Public health officials should figure out effective interventions and education and share that information with the industry, because the mobile app industry is in a strong place to deliver guidance to users.
- Responsibility – Users on some sites agree to codes of conduct to guard their own health and that of partners. Some experts believe that such guidelines can be helpful to keep people safer.
- Education – With direct access to the people involved in the situation, mobile apps are in a unique position to deliver useful information that can help guide the users. People are still responsible for the choices they make, of course, but education can help.
The human desire to reach out to others for love and intimacy is not going to go away. Going forward, the challenge for society and technology is learning how to encourage the best in humanity by educating people as broadly as possible to allow them to make good decisions.