STDs on the rise in NJ – Are dating apps to blame?
States across the U.S., including New Jersey, are seeing the number of reported cases of sexually transmitted diseases rise.
In New Jersey, STD cases have been increasing for the last five years. In 2010, there were 32,961 STD cases reported in New Jersey. In 2011, the number rose to 34,528. The numbers continued to spike in 2012 and 2013 with 35,638 and 36,303 cases reported. Last year, 37,408 cases of STDs were reported in the Garden State.
The counties with the most STD's in 2014 were Essex, Camden and Hudson.
Some doctors suggested that STDs may simply be on the rise because people are being tested more frequently or because there's better reporting being done. Other doctors believe the increase is directly tied to the rising popularity of dating websites, especially ones like Tinder and Grindr, which many believe promote casual sexual encounters.
After seeing a 79 percent spike in syphilis cases and a 33 percent increase in HIV cases, Rhode Island's health department put the blame on apps that encourage high-risk behaviors.
For those using social media to find casual sexual partners, precaution must be taken.
"Many individuals aren't aware they're carrying a sexually transmitted infection, and also not everybody who has a sexually transmitted infection and knows it communicates that information to their partner with a first encounter," said Dr. Sharon Mass, chair of the New Jersey Section of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Moss said many people may not be sharing this "because it's a new meeting and they're not comfortable saying 'Hi it's nice to meet you and I have herpes.'"
Protecting yourself is key.
"We as gynecologists, and I think any medical professional, would highly recommend condom use with any encounter that is not a long-term partner known to be disease free," Moss said. "If both people involved are not using safety measures, condoms and other safety measures, then there is an increased risk that they're going to be exposed to an infection."
Having everything instantly at your fingertips - available on your cell phone - may also be a contributing factor to the rise in STDs, according to Moss.
"These days, it's where are you right now, so there's many, many digital forms of immediate gratification, but people really need to take a lot of caution to be sure they are protecting themselves if they choose to engage with virtual strangers," Moss said.
Communicating with each other could go a long way in protecting yourself.
"Obviously communication and asking questions is ideal, although we understand that may not happen with every encounter, but people must understand if they're with someone they don't know well they are putting themselves at risk for lifelong complications as a result of some of the sexually transmitted diseases," Moss said.