With the advent of location based hookup and dating apps such as Tinder and Scruff, looking for love - whether for life or for the night, has never been easier. But, easier has its consequences.
One state that's feeling the burn--literally and figuratively--of this modern brand of fast food sex is Rhode Island. According to their Department of Health, rates of sexually transmitted diseases are soaring, in part due to increased use of hookup apps.
Between 2013 and 2014--one year's time--cases of syphilis increased 79 percent. HIV infections were up 33 percent and gonorrhea cases jumped 30 percent. The state's health department blamed "high-risk behaviors that have become more common in recent years," including "using social media to arrange casual and often anonymous sexual encounters. Brian Smith, Marketing Manager for PositiveSingles.com says, the increased rate of STD transmissions was a consideration when developing their sites mobile app since their members are already living with at least one STD. I'd be curious to know what other mobile apps are doing in response to the increased rates of STD transmissions. One would hope that the health and well being of their users factors into the equation.
These numbers represent one very small state in particular. Were we to look at major metropolitan areas I'd hazard to guess that the numbers could be even more shocking. Take for instance, Chicago, where I live. On any given day or night, I can open up Scruff or Grindr and find no fewer than 20 guys within a mile radius. With the possibility of sex a mere "hey what's up" away, it's no wonder STD rates are skyrocketing. So what's a boy or girl in this new age of digital, insta-sex to do?
Communicate: Before you make arrangements to meet up, you need to ask your potential partner about their testing and sexual history. When was the last time they were tested? Did that include HIV and other STD's? What's your condom use like? Be sure to offer up your own information first: "I was tested for all STD's, including HIV, two months ago. How about you?".
If your partner isn't forthright in answering questions about their testing history and condom usage, then that's a red flag, and something that should make you take pause. As a general rule of thumb, I recommend all sexually active adults get tested for HIV and all other STD's at least once a year, preferably every six months, and every three if you have multiple partners and don't always use a condom.
Condoms: Condoms have been and remain one of the best ways to protect against HIV and many STD's. If you don't have a problem using condoms that's great; keep up the good work. While some STD's are transmitted via skin-to-skin contact (more on that in a minute), condoms are still an excellent way of protecting yourself against HIV, Chlamydia, and Gonorrhea. While they don't fully protect you against Syphilis and Herpes, they do help lower the risk of transmission.
What's that? You don't like to use condoms? Me neither! When it comes down to it, most people don't. If your condom use is spotty consider PReP and being on top.
PReP: An acronym standing for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PReP), is a once-daily pill, that when taken correctly and consistently, can reduce the chance of acquiring HIV.
Look: Take a look at your partner's genital area before engaging in sex. Yes, I know, this sounds weird, but it works. Do you notice any open sores in the genital region? How about discharge? You can milk your partner's penis by grabbing it at the base, and pulling up the shaft towards the head. Again, sounds weird I know! However, if you notice any green or milky discharge you might want to call it quits on that particular hookup.
To find an HIV/STD testing site near you: hivtest.org
For information on HIV and other STD's: thebody.com
Already infected with HIV, Herpes, or another STD: positivesingles.com
BOTTOM LINE: Sex is, and should be fun. However, in your haste for a good time, it's imperative that you stop and consider the actual risks that come with fast food sex. Just because it's quick and easy, doesn't mean it's going to be good. Get yourself some fries instead. Or just be smart about it.
Disclosure: I am a Safe Sex & HIV Prevention Expert for TheBody.com and a consultant for PositiveSingles.com. I've been HIV for over 13 years, and I plan on staying that way. Unless of course they find a cure, in which case, sign me up.