Dating Apps Lead To Syphilis Spike In Men

Dec 3, 2015


Micrograph of Treponema palladium. Photo from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Earlier this week, the KUNR news team reported a dramatic rise in the rates of sexually transmitted diseases in Nevada. Among them, syphilis is a major concern for local health officials. Reno Public Radio’s Anh Gray reports public health campaigns are targeting social media dating apps, in particular,to stem the increase.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, last year, more than 80 percent of the reported cases of early-stage syphilis in men in the U.S. were among men who have sex with men.


Jennifer Howell is with the Washoe County Health District. “Here we’re seeing more of the hooking up. That’s the biggest thing I would say,” Howell says.

Social media apps, according to Howell, are contributing to more casual sexual encounters, and when combined with alcohol and substance use, can lead to the spread of more STDs.

“We do very targeted advertising on Grindr in particular, which is a really popular hook-up app for men who have sex with men, so we have pop-up ads and banner ads on there,” Howell says. “They have to read a message about syphilis before continuing.”

Howell says the key to effective public health campaigns is to not stigmatize any particular group of people but to identify patterns of risky behaviors and then hone in on public awareness messages.