U.S. health officials blame recent STD ‘epidemic’ on hookup apps

Use a hookup app lately? Be careful, health experts warn: STDs are on the rise.

A recent and notable surge in STD cases in New Jersey is being blamed, in part, on hookup apps like Tinder and Grindr.

Health officials found that the number of syphilis cases rose a whopping 79 per cent from 2013 to 2014. Gonorrhoea cases went up 30 per cent and new cases of HIV rose by 33 per cent.

They even used the word “epidemic” to describe the steep increase.

“These data send a clear signal that despite the progress we have made in reducing STDs and HIV over the years, there is more work to do,” Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, director of the state’s health department, said in a statement.

“We are fortunate in Rhode Island to have great partnerships among state agencies, community-based organizations, and healthcare providers to continue to educate, test, and treat for sexually transmitted diseases. This trend reminds us that we cannot become complacent.”

The majority of these cases are affecting young adults.

While some of the rising numbers can be linked to better testing, officials also believe that social media dating apps are encouraging certain “high-risk behaviours” and advise sexually active people to be careful when pursuing casual and anonymous sex.

“High-risk behaviours include using social media to arrange casual and often anonymous sexual encounters, having sex without a condom, having multiple sex partners and having sex while under the influence of drugs or alcohol,” a press release said.

According to the release, the increase in STD cases “follows a national trend.”

Earlier this month, the Utah State Department reported similar findings, with gonorrhoea rates jumping almost 400 per cent from 2011 to 2014 in the state.

Lynn Beltran, an epidemiologist at the Salt Lake County STD clinic, told KUTV that the proper use of protection is the best strategy for lowering STD rates.

“The biggest thing we are not doing is promoting personal responsibility around our sexual well being,” she said. “People are not educated and think things like, ‘STDs are only in that population I don’t associate with.’ That’s not true. Nobody is exempt from being exposed to an STD when you are sexually active.“

New Jersey’s health department outlined some basic safe-sex guidelines to help lower these STD rates: use condoms or a dental dam every time you have sex, get tested for STDs regularly, know your partner(s)’ sexual health status, follow your healthcare provider’s instructions about treatment and sex should you be diagnosed with an STD, and avoid close physical contact if you or a sexual partner exhibits STD symptoms.