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In 2015, health officials in Rhode Island released data showing a dramatic spike in cases of syphilis (79 percent), gonorrhea (30 percent), and HIV (33 percent) in the previous year.
The uptick, they said, wasn’t an outlier — it was part of a national trend.
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“It may not be that the technology is increasing the risk, but rather there’s this selection effect for people who are more sexually active who tend to use the apps,” he explained.
In other words, what matters more than the apps themselves may be the behavior of people who use them.
Access to society journal content varies across our titles.But with more anonymous sexual encounters, epidemiologists may not be able to track down people’s partners and notify them that they might have an STD, Auerbach said.And that means any diseases those partners might have can spread more easily too.The impact of these sites is so profound they are also transforming the way health officials track and prevent outbreaks.“We used to think about what we can do with bathhouses and sex clubs to make sure people’s risk was reduced,” said Dan Wohlfeiler, director of Building Healthy Online Communities, a public health group that works with apps to support STI prevention.“There’s no doubt meeting new partners is much easier with apps,” Wohlfeiler added.“In Wyoming there are still no gay bars, but the internet makes it much easier for people to find each other.” But the data we have only demonstrates a correlation between online dating and STDs — not causation.Either way, dating apps and sites appear to be helping facilitate connections — and disease outbreaks — that may not have otherwise happened.As health experts learn more about the links between high-risk behavior enabled by dating apps and STD outbreaks, they’re finding that apps make the work of tracking cases harder to do.“They realize that their sites could be stigmatized for being associated with STDs.They do as little as possible.” Just as ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft have disrupted transportation — and required new regulations and cultural adaptations — dating sites have disrupted the way people have sex.