Creators of dating websites have found a way to make it quicker and easier for their users by expanding to mobile applications, but health leaders say they’re concerned about what happens after these individuals connect. They fear these sites and apps could be contributing to a much larger epidemic linked to sexually transmitted diseases, which is why Tinder mobile app developers have now added a health safety section on their website to help users locate the nearest clinics to get tested for STD’s and HIV. The new feature comes after the 2015 Aids Healthcare Foundation’s Awareness Campaign advertised billboards associating apps like Tinder and Grindr to STD’s such as Gonorrhea and Chlamydia.
Jerry Kerr works with several administrators for two high-profile dating apps for gay men, and has been a Sexual Health Educator with the Lucas County Health Department for 11 years. He says the majority of known cases of people affected in our area are under 30 years old.
“When it comes to HIV and to similar and other STD’s,” says Kerr. “Perhaps it’s not so surprising that the age group starts around 16 to 27. STD’s and HIV included are all higher in that age group.”
“This seems to appeal probably more to the younger people,” says Therapist Erin Wiley. “Not necessarily because people just want to hook up but because it focuses on looks it probably gives that impression.”
In Lucas County there are 968 known cases of people living with HIV or Aids. On average, there are 2,750 people diagnosed with Chlamydia and 900 cases of Gonorrhea each year.
“When a person becomes HIV positive and they learn about it by testing here or elsewhere in Ohio and most other states in the U.S.,” says Kerr. “They immediately talk with a disease intervention specialist, who asks them to talk about their partners– who infected them, who they might have infected. That’s when we learn that they may have found their partner online.”
25-year-old , CJ Stobinski, has tried several online dating sites. Stobinski says after meeting with someone he met on one of the sites his life took an unexpected turn. He was diagnosed with HIV in September, 2014.
“When I found out, I mean it was the worst day of my life,” says Stobinski. “It was the day before I turned 24. I wasn’t expecting it at all.”
He says he got tested after he got a call from the Lucas County Health Department that he had been in sexual contact with someone who tested positive for HIV.
“It was devastating,” says Stobinski. “But I knew deep down inside that eventually I would be okay and that I wanted to help other people accept their diagnoses and show them that, you know, you can live in an amazing life…”
Stobinski says he doesn’t allow having HIV stop him from living his life and helping others. He says he spends his free time running marathons and teaching others in the community about the risks of having unprotected sex.