A magazine for friends of the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University.

Think Before You Swipe


Are dating apps conduits for STDs?

Online dating has exploded in popularity in recent years. So, too, have rates of sexually transmitted diseases. Coincidence? Maybe not, Rhode Island health officials say.

Thanks to dating apps and websites, millions of people are hooking up every day—some seeking love and companionship, but others for casual or anonymous sex. Now the smallest state is facing what its Department of Health calls an “epidemic” of STDs: from 2013 to 2014, gonorrhea cases in Rhode Island jumped 30 percent, HIV diagnoses went up 33 percent, and infectious syphilis soared an eye-popping 79 percent.

“This trend reminds us that we cannot become complacent,” says health department Director Nicole Alexander Scott, MD F’09 MPH’11, stressing the importance of sex education and access to testing and treatment.

Nationwide, after years of stable or declining numbers, rates of syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia all have gone up. Though “it’s more of a correlation than a causation at the moment,” says Thomas Bertrand, MPH, chief of the Rhode Island health department’s Office of HIV, STDs, Viral Hepatitis, and TB, social media isn’t off the hook. “When people do meet up online, it’s sometimes common to not share too much contact information. So if they are infected, they can’t let their partners know.”


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