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These places, after all, had become important meeting points for men who have sex with men — the group most affected by the HIV epidemic.
Today, the public health focus has shifted to “digital bathhouses." Wohlfeiler said, “Now that dating sites and apps have become so common, we know we need to work with them." There’s just one problem: Many of the major dating networks don’t want to be involved in STD prevention, nor have they acknowledged the impact they’re having on public health.
But with more anonymous sexual encounters, epidemiologists may not be able to track down people’s partners and notify them that they might have an STD, Auerbach said.
Health officials in states around the country have linked recent STD outbreaks to the rise in internet dating.
In one study looking at the link between Craigslist personal ads and HIV, researchers at the University of Minnesota identified an increase in HIV cases in 33 states between 19 — and determined that the advent of Craigslist alone contributed to a 16 percent increase in cases.
In the UK, the National Health Service is pushing major networks like Tinder and Grindr to advertise places that provide free (or affordable) condoms because of the role they’re playing the rise of sexually transmitted diseases among young men who have sex with men.
When it comes to the US, the much bigger sites like Tinder and Grindr — which have some 50 million and 10 million users, respectively — aren’t doing enough, according to health advocates.