Tag Archives: STD

Tinder releases health & safety section to their app after STD rise from hook-up culture

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Casual hook-ups are nothing new and neither are STDs. Despite our over-exposure to sex, many young people are still under-educated about the prevalence of STDs and the importance of taking preventative steps.

In fact, there is an ever-growing complacency towards STDs, including HIV, thanks to an increasingly casual sexual culture partly possible through apps like Tinder. Twenty-somethings seem to be the poster generation for unprotected sex and have even been called the ‘pull out generation.’

The stats are frightening. Countries around the world have reported a steady rise of STD cases since 2012. Chlamydia, gonorrhoea and syphilis have all seen major spikes, and people aged 15-24 make up two thirds of new cases. In 2012, major North American urban centres saw the rate of HIV increase for the first time in over a decade, and just in the past year, Florida saw its rate of new HIV diagnoses go up by 23 percent.

Casual Sex Encounters? – Read this – it’s not the normal sexual health yada yada..

 

 

Perhaps not coincidentally, 2012 was also the year that Tinder came out. The popular dating app has revolutionized hook-up culture, making it easier than ever to meet people with the sole purpose of having sex. The app also made it easier than ever to catch an STD.

Last year, the AIDS Health Foundation in Los Angeles launched an ad campaign linking the rise of STDs to the dating app. The foundation argued that the dating app has completely changed the modern sexual landscape and has made “casual sex as easily available as ordering a pizza.” Their campaign reminded people that even though sexual encounters have become increasingly brief and frequent, STDs have long-lasting effects and should be taken seriously.

In addition to Tinder, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation argues that young people have had the good fortune to not grow up in a world where HIV is a death sentence thanks to the development of effective antiretroviral drugs. But that in turn has developed a false sense of security and a detachment from HIV’s threat. In general, Americans are simply not as afraid of HIV, viewing it as a ‘third-world disease’ and are vastly under-educated on the topic.

That attitude has led to AIDS falling off the media radar. Tellingly, education programs have lost funding. You rarely see advertisements promoting safe sex, and many people have reverted to old, reckless sexual behaviour. Younger people are particularly affected by this phenomenon since they didn’t live through the original AIDS epidemic.

The AIDS Healthcare Foundation argues that the development of effective antiretroviral drugs has developed a false sense of security against STDs

Tinder responded to the AHF campaign with a cease and desist letter, arguing that the sexual health of a person in any relationship, formed on Tinder or otherwise, is in the hands of that person and not the app itself. But it has shown support for the initiative by creating a new section on the app that provides sexual health information as well as a locator for STD-testing facilities.

Hopefully young Tinder users take the section as a wake up call to the realities of STDs and change their ways for the better. Remember kids: no glove no love.

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Teens Don’t Know HIV Is a Sexually Transmitted Disease

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A new study published by the MAC AIDS Fund shows a third of teens don’t know HIV is a sexually transmitted disease. Have the lessons of generations past been lost?

That’s the conclusion reading the results of a new survey put out by the MAC AIDS Fund (PDF). The online survey of about 1,000 teenagers was conducted this year by the communications firm Kelton, and does reveal some worrisome data about their attitudes and level of information about HIV and AIDS. Given its funding source, it makes sense that those facts would be the focus of the report. But taken as a whole, the results indicate that adolescents have a pretty good understanding of what choices are most likely to worsen their health over time.

The most startling and worrisome finding (helpfully highlighted by Vox) is that roughly a third of the respondents did not identify HIV as a sexually transmitted infection (STI). If a true reflection of teenagers’ knowledge of how HIV is spread, that number is troubling indeed. A 2002 study of youth at an urban clinic found that, despite spotty knowledge about STIs as a whole, HIV was identified as such by 91 percent, a larger number than identified any of the others. While a difference in study populations may account for some of that discrepancy between the two surveys, a drop to 67 percent in the span of a dozen years would be a precipitous decline in informedness.

Unfortunately, it’s difficult to know how much credence to give those findings. Unlike studies that typically appear in peer-reviewed journals, there is little information provided by Kelton in the report regarding the survey methods. While it’s certainly possible that teenagers have become drastically less informed about HIV than they should be, it’s hard to put aside skepticism about how solid those numbers are without seeing how the survey was worded.

Taking the numbers at face value, the survey finds that 88 percent of teenagers don’t perceive themselves to be at risk for lifetime HIV infection. In contrast, they are concerned about the risks of developing cancer (38 percent), diabetes (33 percent), heart disease (28 percent) and obesity (22 percent). Comparing the prevalence of HIV infection to mortality and obesity rates in the United States, those attitudes are actually pretty sensible. While 50,000 new HIV infections a year are far too many, on balance adolescents are at far more risk of developing those other health problems.

The survey reports that less than a third of respondents rated having unprotected sex as the most risky health behavior they could be engaging in. However, that’s still more than those who rated smoking or drinking (28 percent) or eating unhealthy foods (20 percent) as the riskiest. Without seeing the study’s methods, it’s impossible to know what those numbers really mean. Were respondents only given one choice or asked to rank several? Just because a teenager thinks drinking is the most risky thing she could be doing (which, given the effects of drinking on mortality, isn’t a crazy answer) doesn’t mean she perceives unprotected sex as being risk-free.

For an organization like the MAC AIDS Fund, it makes sense to look at the survey results and respond with alarm. Its focus is on HIV and AIDS, and the report certainly indicates that there is work to be done in communicating to youth about preventing infection. But when viewed as part of a bigger picture, it shows that teenagers have a good idea of what their long-term health risks truly are. Coupled with data showing decreased risk behavior among adolescents as compared to older generations, it’s actually rather encouraging.

What is truly discouraging are the numbers regarding new HIV infections among men who have sex with men (MSM), the group comprising the largest number of new diagnoses by far. Among MSM aged 13-24 years rates of new infections have actually risen over the past decade, while the overall rate of new diagnoses has dropped by 30 percent.  While medications like Truvada can be used to lower the risk of infection for those engaged in high-risk behaviors, that doesn’t mean attention to lowering those risks isn’t important.

Though reading of the report is that most teens have a good idea about the health risks they actually face, it remains important to inform adolescents about their risk of infection with HIV. The survey report contains no information about the respondents’ demographics beyond their ages, so it’s impossible to know how many fall into higher-risk groups. For those who do, giving them the information they need to lower that risk remains just as important as ever.

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