An Increase in cases of HIV has a Northern Indiana County investigating why the elevated numbers are occurring so rapidly. As a result, blame for the HIV increase is being placed on the use of dating apps.
Agencies in St. Joseph County, Indiana has found a traceable rise in cases of HIV in the area. The individuals that have been newly infected with HIV have two significant things in common; unprotected sex and the use of dating apps on their smartphones, according to the South Bend Tribune.
Local nonprofit organizations such as the AIDS Ministries of Northern Indiana recorded an increase of 11 HIV cases just in June of 2016. They noted that about 60 percent of new HIV cases occurred in individuals under the age of 30. Leeah Hopper, the agency’s director, has stressed that individuals that experiment with unprotected sex should be aware of whether they are infected or not, and be prepared to make life changes if they do become infected with HIV.
“The thing we’re seeing the most is young people being HIV positive, with most being diagnosed through sex. It shows the importance of knowing your status, whether positive or negative, and starting to educate the youth in high schools, repetitively getting that message across of protecting yourself and what could happen if you don’t.”
Melissa Murawski, a specialist in disease intervention, blames the increase of HIV cases on the “hookup” culture that is spreading with the use of dating apps.
“People are meeting and hooking up with social media. They’ll meet up and have casual, anonymous sex, and then they’ll never see them again. If you’re using Grindr or Snapchat or Tinder and you end up hooking up, your risk is higher because you may ask them (their HIV status) and they may lie.”
— Hannah Osborne (@hannah__osborne) July 25, 2016
The New York Times reported on the dating app Grindr and how it is being used to reach out to gay, black, and Hispanic men in an effort to encourage and provide the use of at home HIV testing kits. At the time of reporting, only 400 kits were sent to Grindr users. Despite the low number of kits sent out, there is hope that word will spread and users of the dating app will test themselves for HIV.
The HIV tests are non-invasive and require only a swab from the inside of the cheek to provide enough material for testing. The results are revealed only 20 minutes later.
Results from the tests that were sent out revealed that 56 of the tests were received by black and Hispanic males. Two of those men discovered that they were HIV positive.
Two men just learned via Grindr that they are HIV-positive: A recent study has found that the gay dating app… https://t.co/teIQ2udz7d
— FACE2FACE2K8 (@FACE2FACE2K8) July 11, 2016
Grindr was chosen because it is the oldest gay dating app available and has the largest user base of all gay dating apps. It is hopeful that more gay men, women, as well as straight individuals, will reach out and get themselves tested.
Murawski is concerned that most do not get tested because HIV is not the death sentence it once was, so it is not as scary as it used to be.
“It’s not a death sentence, so in their minds they’re thinking, ‘I’m not at risk’. So they’re not always as likely to use condoms or other forms of protection or even ask about it.”
Instances of HIV infection in the St. Joseph County area, as well as surrounding areas in Northern Indiana and Southwestern Michigan, are being closely monitored and reported, in hopes that awareness will lessen the chances of infection.
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