Dr. Zorba Paster: Phone apps can lead to sexually transmitted disease

2014-07-10T05:00:00Z Dr. Zorba Paster: Phone apps can lead to sexually transmitted diseaseDr. ZORBA PASTER | family physician, Dean Health madison.com

Believe it or not, there are new smart phone apps whose sole purpose is to help the user find someone for casual sex. There are also websites that have been serving that same purpose. And, of course, there are the old-fashioned bar “hook-ups.”

So let me ask you: Which method of finding someone is more likely to lead you to a person with the “gift that keeps on giving,” a sexually transmitted disease?

Now, close your eyes and guess. If you answered the app, then you were as smart as the phone.

A new study in the British Medical Journal shows that finding a “friend” with benefits through a phone app is more likely to mean you will need that shot of penicillin to treat what comes afterward.

These apps are exploding. Grindr, for example, an app used primarily by gays and bisexuals, now has 6 million members in 200 countries. The number of people using Tinder, the hook-up app for the straight-sex crowd, has doubled in the last three months.

Here’s how it works: Users register, sign in and post information about themselves, just like on dating sites such as Match.com. If someone else is looking for “love” tonight, you can find out where they are through the handy GPS tool — in fact, they might be right down the block.

Send them a message and you’re in business. The same GPS tool you used to find the nearest pizza joint will locate a willing sex partner.

The BMJ study divided 7,000 men who came in for treatment of STDs into three groups — bar hopping, online “shopping” and phone apps. Although the study only involved gay men, I suspect the results ring true of straight men and women, too.

They found that if you’re looking to win the gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis sweepstakes, then the apps take it, hands-down. That’s a contest nobody wants to win.

Technology is always one step ahead of the game, especially when it comes to sex. Pornography used to be purchased in the “bad” areas of town, then it moved to hotel rooms, and now it’s ubiquitous on the Internet.

The bottom-line issue, speaking as a doctor, is that adventurous sex is too often unprotected sex. Not all the time, mind you, but far too often.

Unfortunately, there are many young people who don’t remember seeing folks their age die of AIDS (anonymous sex tends to attract a younger crowd). They think of STDs as curable and without consequence. They’re wrong.

While penicillin still works for syphilis, it stopped working for gonorrhea decades ago. These nasty bugs mutate far quicker than our ability to find new antibiotics to treat them.

My spin: It’s “buyer beware.” There may not be any money transacted in these cases, but you certainly can get more than you bargained for. Stay well.

This column provides general health information and is not specific advice intended for any particular individual(s). It is not a professional medical opinion or a diagnosis. Always consult your personal health care provider about your concerns. No ongoing relationship of any sort (including but not limited to any form of professional relationship) is implied or offered by Dr. Paster to people submitting questions.

Copyright 2014 madison.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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