Young people using Tinder could soon trigger a surge in HIV cases because they’re more likely to have anal sex and change partners regularly.
An NHS sexual health consultant has warned of a ‘chain reaction’ of HIV cases if dating app-obsessed millennials don’t make sure they use condoms.
Apps like Tinder make it easier for people to switch sexual partners quickly, meaning they can catch more STIs.
And internet porn is increasing the number of straight couples having anal sex, Dr Peter Greenhouse said, which is more likely to spread HIV.
The rising numbers of people using Tinder and other online dating apps could contribute to a surge in HIV cases unless they’re ‘meticulous’ about using condoms, an expert in Bristol has warned, because anal sex and frequently changing partners are becoming more common
Dr Greenhouse, a sexual health consultant in Bristol, said there could be an ‘explosion’ of cases of the incurable infection.
He told the Daily Star: ‘I worry in the grand scheme of things that if enough young heterosexual people change partners frequently enough and have unprotected sex then at some point there is going to be quite a bit more HIV around in the heterosexual community.’
The NHS has already seen a rise in more treatable infections, which some experts have pinned on the rise of dating apps.
Before apps such as Tinder, people had to meet face-to-face before agreeing to have sex, and would have been more likely to be embarrassed about casual relations.
And Dr Greenhouse added a generation of young people who are learning about sex from internet porn are more likely to have unprotected or anal sex.
The two together could cause a ‘nuclear reaction’ of spreading HIV, he said, because people can switch partners within days when it most infectious.
‘Dating apps increase how quickly people can change from one partner to the next or have concurrent relationships,’ Dr Greenhouse explained.
‘The app takes the initial embarrassment away and means they are far more likely to start new relationships.
DATING APPS BLAMED FOR UNPRECEDENTED LEVELS OF SYPHILIS AND GONORRHOEA
Clinics are ‘struggling’ to cope with soaring numbers of STIs because dating apps are encouraging casual sex, an expert warned last month.
Cases of syphilis rose by 53 per cent between 2016 and 2017 in Wales, according to the latest official figures. The figures mirror the rise across the rest of the UK.
Dr Olwen Williams, president of the British Association of Sexual Health and HIV, said: ‘In my career I’ve never seen so much gonorrhoea or syphilis in my area, ever.’
Chlamydia, HIV and herpes are all on the rise in Wales as well, but the number of new cases of genital warts fell during the same period.
Young people – those between 15 and 24 years old – have the most new cases of STIs.
Dr Williams told the BBC: ‘The frequency of app hook-ups and dating apps used as a sort of medium to access sexual activity seems to have increased significantly.
‘What we can say about sexual mixing and sexual networking is that things have changed considerably.
‘We’re seeing a genuine rise in STIs.’
‘There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with that but [Tinder users] are changing partners more frequently which means by definition there will be more infections.’
Dr Greenhouse added larger numbers of people watching internet porn has normalised anal sex among heterosexual people.
And because the rectum ‘isn’t designed to take the knocks’ of sex, the tissue is more likely to be damaged, increasing the risk of spreading STIs.
Anal sex carries a 10 times higher risk of infection with HIV than vaginal.
This is because cells in the anus are more susceptible to HIV, and fluid in semen and the anus’s lining carry more HIV than vaginal secretions.
This is why men who have sex with men are among the people most at risk of HIV in the UK.
‘[Porn] dramatically increases the acceptability and pressure to perform rectal sex,’ Dr Greenhouse told The Star.
‘Heterosexually, you are more likely to get HIV because more people are doing more rectal sex with more people.
‘Unless people are absolutely meticulous about using condoms for rectal sex, it is inevitable there will be more HIV transitions.’
The speed at which people switch partners can also play an important role in HIV transmission, said Dr Greenhouse, because it is most infectious within the first month of someone catching it.
So the ability to find a new sexual partner within days of the last one – by using dating apps, for example – means people could be having unprotected sex before they know they’ve caught the virus and while they’re still most infectious.
‘The amount of virus in the bloodstream is enormous for the first two or three weeks of infection, then settles down to a low level,’ he said.
‘So what really matters is how many partners you can turn around in the first two weeks of the infection.
‘You only need a small number of people to be doing that and bumping into other people before you get your explosion. It’s a bit like a nuclear reaction.’
But despite the fear of spreading cases, the number of people being newly diagnosed with HIV in the UK is at its lowest level in 18 years.
Data released by Public Health England in September revealed just 4,363 people in the country were diagnosed in 2017.
This was far lower than a spike in 2005 which saw nearly 8,000 people diagnosed.
While HIV itself won’t kill you it can lead to AIDS – acquired immune deficiency syndrome – in which the immune system becomes so damaged by the HIV virus that it stops working and simple infections can be enough to kill.
Only 428 people died of AIDS in 2017 – the lowest yearly total since PHE’s data collection began back in 1988.