Should 'Hook-Up' Apps Provide Sexual Health Advice?
Dating app Tinder has agreed to include information about local sexual health clinics on their website after a dispute with the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, who erected billboards linking Tinder to STIs such as chlamydia and gonorrhoea.
What Is Tinder?
Tinder is a dating app that was introduced in 2012. It is popular worldwide as it offers photos of users based simply on location and age. Users swipe the screen right to express an interest or left to move past.
Why are they providing sexual health resources?
Billboards erected by the AIDS charity show two silhouettes leaning toward each other. One is labelled 'Tinder', the other 'chlamydia'. The boards also feature another dating app, 'Grindr', which is leaning towards a silhouette labelled 'gonorrhoea'. On the right of the board is the URL of a free STI clinic.
Previous to the appearance of the billboards, experts such as Lynn Beltran - an epidemiologist at the Salt Lake STD clinic - had spoken about dating apps stating 'It is becoming more socially acceptable to have casual sexual partners... for people who are interested in anonymous sex: it is right at their fingertips... fifteen years ago you would have to go to some seedy park for that'.
With that kind of reputation building up, it's no wonder Tinder took action.
In September 2015 Tinder's lawyers sent a 'cease and desist letter' to the Aids Healthcare Foundation stating that the billboards were 'unprovoked and wholly unsubstantiated accusations… made to irreparably damage Tinder's reputation'.
Conversations took place between the Aids charity president and Tinder and they reached the compromise of placing a STI clinic link on the app in return for the removal of billboards. A joint statement in support of sexual health was published.
Will it help?
The popularity of Tinder can't be denied. Simplicity is always attractive, so finding a local STI clinic on same page as potential hook-ups could encourage some to get tested. People can't be made to take responsibility for their actions, but it's a step in the right direction. Apps like Tinder can provide the resource because, as the president of the Aids Healthcare Foundation said 'There are consequences to hooking up... that's not a moralistic judgement. It's just a fact'.
Are dating apps actually to blame for the rise in STIs?
It appears that social media has changed the way we date, look for relationships and arrange casual sex.
A Rhode Island Department of Health statement attributed the rise in STIs between 2013 and 2014 to social media and anonymous sexual encounters. Their numbers of syphilis cases have risen by 79% and gonorrhoea is up by 30%. New HIV infections increased by 33%.
Worldwide rises in STIs are attributable to the popularity and ease of dating apps - because what else could it be?
Some apps have taken this information in hand. Healthvana, for example, allows users to access and share their test results. Healthvana's CEX said the link between 'hook-up' apps and STIs was "something we've seen for years. Now the data is coming out to show the connection".
Although take up is not assured, it's time 'hook-up' apps like Tinder showed some concern for its clients and offered out some health resources. The rise of STIs may well be an unstoppable force and information on how to protect yourself is badly needed. Let's hope other dating apps follow Tinder's example.