Heath officials in Hawaii are blaming online dating for the state’s surge of sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Hawaii is under a siege of STIs, with rates of syphilis increasing five-fold, gonorrhea rates doubling and chlamydia up by 56 percent from the last decade, according to CDC data released last week.
Increases in the Aloha state are consistent with rises across the US, which are a growing concern to US heath officials.
Gerald Hasty, program coordinator for Hawaii’s Department of Health Harm Reduction Services said that the high rate of all three STIs come as ‘no surprise,’ as online dating adds to the risk people will be exposed with ‘no idea of it.’
Dating apps and sites might be encouraging people to have more sex with more partners whose sexual histories they don’t know, fueling the surge in STIs in Hawaii, officials there said
‘As people rely on digital means of making connections it can lead to circumstances where they might be more exposed to infection without them knowing it,’ Dr Hasty told the Star Advertiser.
‘More partners, more chances to get infections.’
In 2018, Hawaii reported 7,735 cases of chlamydia, putting its rate of infection just above the national average.
At just under 1,500 cases of gonorrhea, Hawaii’s rate of the common STI was fairly low compared to the rest of country, but was still twice as high as the previous as it had been a decade prior.
Despite the fact that the state had just 92 reported cases of syphilis, that was several times as many as in 2008.
And syphilis is of particular concern to public health officials this year, as they’ve noted an alarming rate of the congenital form of the infection this year, the CDC said last week.
When the disease is left untreated, it can be passed from an infected mother to her baby.
While syphilis is very much curable in adults if it’s caught in time, it can cause heart and brain damage if left untreated and if a fetus is exposed to its mothers’s infection, syphilis increases the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth or death soon after birth.
All three of these common diseases have been steadily rising in the US, reaching new records year after year.
‘The fact that they’re all increasing is not desirable, but it’s also not unexpected,’ said Dr Hasty.
Transmissions are most common among young adults – those in their early 20s, says Dr Hasty – who tend to be more sexually active than younger or older people.
But in recent years, a few disturbing trends have emerged among these young people.
For one, the majority of Americans between ages 15 and 25 say they’ve never been tested for STIs.
‘That sets the stage for the infections to be spread,’ said Dr Hasty.
Despite being unaware of their statuses, rates of condom use has been falling.
Sales of prophylactic have slowed and in 2017, only about a third of sexually active men and women in the US report using condoms consistently.
Teenagers are having less sex, but public health experts believe that young adults may be having sex with more partners.
Grindr is well known as an app that stokes ‘hook up culture’ in the gay community, and Tinder is a close analogue for the broader dating pool.
Last year, Grindr went to work on a feature that would allow users to notify their partners more easily through the app if they tested positive for an STI, Mashable reported.
But if more sexually active Americans don’t start getting tested in the first place, and using protection in the second, notifications will only go so far to stem surging STI rates.