As the world moves increasingly into the digital landscape, searching for a significant other (or quick carnal satisfaction) online has long been the new norm.
According to The Manila Times, “online dating could introduce an insatiable appetite for variety and novelty — a constant desire for the next best partner, the next quick sexual tryst. “
Unfortunately, the ease of access to dating apps and its ease of use has brought upon an exponential rise in new human immunodeficiency viruses (HIV) diagnoses amongst young men (aged between 15-34) in the Philippines as compared to the rest of the world, reported Wall Street Journal (WSJ).
Based on the research conducted by the AIDS agency of the United Nations, the increase in the usage of dating apps is regarded as a key factor which fuels the Philippines’ severe HIV epidemic situation.
Thanks to the availability of basic smartphones as well as cheap data plans, millions of young Asians now have access to the internet and apps — and dating apps in particular are believed to have encouraged promiscuity.
This would be an issue in a country with a lack of sex education and mostly Catholic citizens who are against contraceptives. Even Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte urged his countrymen to ditch condoms because “they don’t feel good”.
The WSJ report discovered that the vast majority of people diagnosed with HIV across the country are gay and bisexual males, most of whom contracted the disease through sexual intercourse.
Other affected groups include those who are sexually exploited or engaged in sex work, people who inject drugs, and young transgender people.
Jigg, an HIV-positive gay male who had been diagnosed after unprotected sex with a man he had met through Grindr, told WSJ, “Young people are on dating apps these days, and they will have sex. We need to equip them with the knowledge and resources that come with it.”
Being a relatively conservative country, it would be difficult for Filipinos to be open to discussions about sex — especially so for same-sex relationships. Fortunately, non-profit organisations such as LoveYourself have been established to help raise awareness about the issue.
Even so, volunteers still encounter negative responses as many believe that with the introduction of preventive treatment, it would encourage “promiscuous behaviour”, as per WSJ.
Other nations across Southeast Asia are faring slightly better when it comes to HIV infections. In Singapore’s case, the rate of HIV infections is considered to be low, where there had only been 313 cases of new HIV diagnoses in 2018, as stated by the Ministry of Health.
Likewise in Malaysia, the rates of HIV infections have significantly decreased, as Deputy Health Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye mentioned that “We have succeeded in reducing the HIV rate from 28.5 per 100,000 residents in Malaysia in 2002, to 10 cases per 100,000 residents in 2018.”