Health experts have issued warnings that mobile phone apps and dating websites which are used to arrange meetings for casual sex could be the reason for the increase in syphilis in Wales.
Cases of the disease which causes irreparable organ damage have increased dramatically across Wales. The area has seen 55 reported cases this year which is almost the same amount as for 2013.
Public Health Wales (PHW) has issued warnings about the increase in the disease across North Wales, where 39 cases have been reported since mid-2013. This is more than five times the average of around seven cases per year.
The worrying rise in the number of reported cases is being linked to the increase in use of mobile apps, such as OKCupid, Hinge, Tinder, Adam4Adam and Grindr, among others, which allows for the arrangement of hooking up for casual sex.
A spokesman for the PHW said that the evidence indicates that the disease is spreading quite fast among those who make use of apps and dating websites to meet others for casual sexual encounters.
Anyone who fears that they may be at risk or are showing symptoms of the disease is being asked to go for the required tests.
The Terence Higgins Trust (THT) which is active in stopping the spread of HIV and promoting good sexual health, states that branding social as being bad is not right. The national director of the charity, Steve Jones, said that social media has simply made it easier and quicker to obtain the main ‘event’ than was previously possible. However, he stated, that there are also heterosexuals and bisexuals who have become infected after using apps and dating websites.
He has asked for people who think they may have been infected to visit their local sexual health clinic to be tested, as antibiotics can be prescribed as treatment, but leaving it untreated could result in serious consequences.
Mr Jones is also sending out a reminder to make use of condoms, not only as a means of avoiding syphilis, but also to avoid the risks of other sexually transmitted infections.
Steve Jones stated that social media dating sites are simply making sex easily available. In the past the process of reaching the point of having sex may have taken hours or days, but by using an app, you will immediately be shown who is available locally, possibly for a sexual encounter. He added that some people make use of these apps and sites to build up a circle of friends, so to brand them as being a bad option is wrong.
He further added that when the rate of infection increases from a small amount, it indicates that the increase in percentage is higher. According to him the number in Wales are still quite low, but he offers his support to PHW to ask people to get tested.
Syphilis, a bacterial infection, can be passed from one person to another through sex, including oral sex.
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