London - Dating apps are fuelling a surge in sexually-transmitted diseases, say experts.
They say that by allowing instant “hook-ups”, the hugely popular smartphone programs are making it easier for syphilis, gonorrhoea and other STDs to spread.
It is even feared the apps could trigger an explosion of HIV, the virus behind Aids.
The warning concerns Tinder and other dating apps, through which growing numbers of young people meet potential partners.
Tinder alone has an estimated 50 million users worldwide. It is claimed a third of new relationships in the UK began on a website or app.
Unlike “traditional” online dating, which matches users on personality and hobbies, many of the programs simply pair up people based on their location. This allows them to instantly meet someone in a nearby office, bar or shop, raising concerns that many users are more interested in casual sex than lasting relationships.
Latest figures show the number of cases of gonorrhoea, which can cause infertility and fatal blood infections rose by 19 percent last year.
Cases of syphilis, which can cause stroke, dementia and blindness and death, have jumped by 33 percent.
Figures from Public Health England show sexually transmitted infections are most common in 16 to 24-year-olds – the biggest users of smartphones and dating apps.
Peter Greenhouse, of the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV, said: “You are able to turn over partners more quickly with a dating app and the quicker you do so, the more likely you are to get infections.”
He said that much of the recent increase in STDs has been in gay men. However, rates of chlamydia, which can leave women infertile, may rise among straight men and women because of the popularity of dating apps.
Public Health Wales issued a warning following a surge in syphilis last year, saying the infection was spreading particularly quickly in those who use websites and apps to “meet other people for casual sex”.
Most of the cases were in gay men but some were in bisexuals and heterosexuals.
George Kidd, chief executive of the Online Dating Association, said that, while some apps do focus on “hook-ups” and could do more to advise members about the risk of STDs, most revolve around dating and sexual health messages would “not be helpful”.
He added that dating apps follow social trends rather than set them, saying: “If people… want to have a louche lifestyle, they will do that. They don’t suddenly do that because they are presented with an app.”