Some scary news is coming out of Onondaga County, NY. Between 2012 and 2013, the number of syphilis cases nearly doubled, and the smart phone app called Grindr is partly to blame. Grindr is a global positioning app that allows users to locate other users (within feet) who want to meet up. Many times, these meet ups turn into hook ups. The app is targeted to men who have sex with men, very similar to other apps like Tinder, which targets a more heterosexual base. Grindr boasts over 7 million members across 192 countries. You can see why health officials are concerned.
Health officials in the Syracuse area confirmed that nearly all the cases involved men, and more than 70 percent involved men who reported having sex with other men. Many of these men reported using Grindr (and similar apps) to find their recent sex partners. In case you need a refresher, syphilis can be deadly if left untreated by antibiotics. It is a bacterial infection, like chlamydia and gonorrhea, but left untreated, syphilis has much worse consequences. To learn about the symptoms associated with syphilis, please visit this CDC fact sheet.
This news is especially hard to hear considering that the U.S. was doing so well at reducing syphilis cases that the CDC officially ceased its Syphilis Elimination Effort just months ago in December 2013.
The Grindr website encourages its users to stay safe by getting tested and using protection, but only specifically mentions HIV and hepatitis. Here are two tips to keep you (sexually) safer when using meet up to hook up apps: 1- Know your status by getting tested often. If you’re testing positive, don’t spread the infection. 2- Use condoms. Asking someone you’re dating to reveal their status is one thing, but expecting a complete stranger to be honest about their status is completely unrealistic. And remember, given the opportunity, sexually transmitted diseases will spread, regardless of who you have sex with.