Dating apps blamed for rise of HIV in Asia
Explosion of gay dating apps has expanded the options for casual spontaneous sex, says UN report
A United Nations report has cited the growing use of smartphone dating apps as a major factor in a new HIV epidemic among teenagers in Asia.
Many countries, including Thailand, Indonesia, Pakistan and the Philippines, are witnessing "growing HIV infection rates among the most vulnerable adolescent populations", said the report.
The number of young people aged between 10 and 19 estimated to be living with HIV in the region reached 220,000 in 2014.
"The explosion of smartphone gay dating apps has expanded the options for casual spontaneous sex as never before – mobile app users in the same vicinity (if not the same street) can locate each other and arrange an immediate sexual encounter with a few screen touches," it said.
However, the report suggested that popular apps in the region, such as Jack'd, Blued and Grindr, could also be educational. "Public health experts hope that such apps will become vital conduits promoting sexual health, including HIV messaging and testing," said the report.
For example, Chinese gay dating app Blued worked with UNAIDS and UNICEF to add a red ribbon to every user profile on World Aids Day last year linking to information about HIV and offering details of the user's nearest voluntary testing centre.
Grindr and Jack'd told The Guardian that they also took matters of sexual health seriously and have both used the app to provide health resources to their users.
Earlier this month, the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV said that dating apps were increasing rates of STIs.
"You are able to turn over partners more quickly with a dating app and the quicker you change partners the more likely you are to get infections," Dr Peter Greenhouse, from the association, told BBC's Newsbeat.
In England in 2014, there was a 33 per cent increase in syphilis, while gonorrhoea cases were up by 19 per cent.
However, Marie Cosnard, head of trends at the UK dating app Happn, believes apps are not to blame and are simply following wider social trends that have been unfolding for decades.
"There's a liberalisation of attitudes towards the number of partners, the status of relationships, towards marriage, divorce, etc," she said. "So the rise of any STI is not really connected to dating apps themselves. The problem is much wider."