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Dating apps are to blame for rise in STIs, say doctors

Up to 40 percent of new relationships are formed online (the majority through dating apps) but are all these happy couples putting themselves at greater risk of contracting STIs?

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Yes, says the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV. Dr. Peter Greenhouse, one of the U.K.’s leading sexual health doctors, told BBC Newsbeat that, because the “turnover” of partners is quicker when using a dating app, users are “more likely” to get infections.

And it’s not just chlamydia, syphilis and gonorrhoea daters have to worry about. Dr. Greenhouse warns that “we are just at a tipping point for HIV.”

“If enough people change partners quickly, and they’ve got other untreated sexually transmitted infections, it might just start an explosion of HIV in the heterosexual population. Apps could do that,” he said.

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Marie Cosnard, head of trends at Happn, one of the U.K.’s most popular dating apps, disagrees. “Dating apps are following wider social trends and changing behaviours that have been unfolding for decades,” she told Newsbeat. “There’s a liberalisation of attitudes towards the number of partners, the status of relationships, towards marriage, divorce, etc. So the rise of any STI is not really connected to dating apps themselves. The problem is much wider.

“People need to be more educated in terms of sexual health and to take their responsibilities, no matter how and where they’ve met their partner, (sic)” Cosnard added.

The most recent figures from Public Health England confirm a rapid rise in some STIs, such as syphilis, which increased by 33 percent in 2014, and gonorrhoea, which increased by 19 percent.

With new dating apps being developed on an almost daily basis, what’s the answer to this issue? “Apps have to invest more time in pushing a safe sex message,” said Dr. Greenhouse.

But is it really the responsibility of the app to remind users to practise safe sex? An app might make it easier to have multiple sexual partners but surely it’s up to the individual to ask the right questions and take the right precautions.

Find out about the most common STIs, including their symptoms and treatment, from The Family Planning Association.

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