STI clinics are ‘struggling to cope’ because of online dating apps

Dating apps like Tinder and Bumble are blamed for spike in STIs: Clinics are ‘struggling’ to cope as hook-up sites ‘make it harder to tell ex-partners’

  • Cases of syphilis rose by 53 per cent in Wales between 2016 and 2017
  • Gonorrhoea, herpes and chlamydia are all also being diagnosed more often
  • And STIs are on the rise in England, where there were a record 3.3m visits in 2017
  • Experts say dating and hook-up apps are making it more difficult to contain STIs
  • They encourage more casual sex and make it harder to trace ex-partners 

Clinics are ‘struggling’ to cope with soaring numbers of STIs because dating apps are encouraging casual sex, an expert has warned.

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.

A senior doctor has blamed hook-up and dating mobile apps for making it harder to contact people’s past partners and stop the spread of infections.

Apps like Tinder and Grindr, on which people can find and arrange to meet sexual partners online, have repeatedly been blamed for spreading STIs.

Mobile dating apps could be contributing to the rise of STIs in the UK because they make it easier for people to have casual sex and it can be more difficult for them to notify ex-partners when they’re diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection

Dr Olwen Williams, president of the British Association of Sexual Health and HIV, said show a ‘genuine rise’ in STIs – rather than just more people getting tested.

He 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.

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‘We’re seeing a genuine rise in STIs. If we were just seeing an increase in testing then our figures would look slightly different, but it feels that way.

‘Certainly in my career I’ve never seen so much gonorrhoea or syphilis in my area, ever.’

Case of gonorrhoea also rose by 21 per cent between 2016 and 2017, Public Health Wales revealed.


An Englishman who caught the ‘world’s worst’ case of super-gonorrhoea was cured in April 2018 with a last-ditch antibiotic.

In the first recorded case worldwide, the unidentified man caught a version of the sexually transmitted infection (STI) that was resistant to two crucial drugs.

Health officials revealed he caught it from a one-night stand with a woman during his travels to south east Asia earlier this year – despite having a girlfriend in the UK.

Public Health England (PHE) issued a warning over the the STI, which is resistant to ceftriaxone and azithromycin – the two drugs recommended for gonorrhoea.

But the Government agency revealed the man was cured with the antibiotic ertapenem and said he had not spread it in the UK. 

World Health Organization (WHO) experts raised fears two years ago the STI, once known as the ‘clap’, could become immune to antibiotics in a ‘matter of years’. 

Chlamydia, HIV and herpes are all on the rise in the country 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.

When people are diagnosed with sexually transmitted infections they are advised to tell their current and past partners and suggest they get tested, too.

This can help people get diagnosed earlier and limit the spread of infections.

But apps which allow fast, easy meetings with strangers can make it more difficult for people to get in touch with people they’ve had sex with in the past.

Dr Williams said earlier this month: ‘What we are finding is it’s a little bit more difficult to get partners in because they can often be anonymous people who they met on Tinder and Grindr.’

There have been warnings that a lack of Government funding could be affecting how well STI clinics are run.

Dr Williams added: ‘Our biggest issue is around our staffing because we really do struggle to do outreach, to actually do partner notification [and] if we’re not doing that then all we’ll do is see an increase in STIs in Wales.

‘I think services will struggle if we don’t get investment.’

The same comments have been made about the rest of the NHS, with fewer people getting tested for STIs but a higher proportion of patients testing positive.

Helen Donovan, of the Royal College of Nursing said in May: ‘This is a worrying picture of understaffed services going to extreme lengths to try to cope, even turning people away – the last thing a health professional ever wants to do.

‘If people are not able to access services then serious STIs could go undiagnosed and untreated – it is a major risk to public health.’

Syphilis and gonorrhoea infections are also rising in England, with an average of 794 new STI diagnoses per 100,000 people last year.  

Council leaders warned last month sexual health services in England are ‘stretched to the limit’ as a record 3.3million people visited clinics last year. 

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