The popular gay sex-date app Grindr has been blamed for a rise in HIV infections in Hong Kong and syphilis infections in New Zealand.
The app allows men to identify other men with similar interests in their immediate area and to arrange instant hook-ups.
Last month, Dr. Heather Young, senior clinician at the Christchurch Sexual Health Clinic in New Zealand, told TVNZ: “In 2011, sex-on-site venues were associated with 50 per cent of syphilis cases but in 2012 it is more common found after use of internet dating sites or the Grindr app.”
Now, leading Hong Kong HIV/AIDS group AIDS Concern, has also fingered Grindr for an increase in HIV infections among gay men.
“Grindr helps men locate nearby MSM (men who have sex with men) who also install the same app in their smart phone. So it is much easier for them to locate a sex partner around their living district or area,” Aids Concern spokeswoman Panda Cheung Yin-mei told China Daily.
“It has become popular in the past one or two years and it is one of the factors that are contributing to the record high levels of infections,” she said.
While Grindr has insisted that it promotes safe sex, Cheung said that attempts to engage with Grindr to help educate its users had failed.
“Grindr is a money-making software. They have tightened monitoring of users and they don’t welcome NGOs doing outreach on the Grindr networks. Once they find a phone number is an NGO number, they block the number so the NGO cannot do it again.
“We have made preliminary contact with the Grindr developer and they have told us we welcome you as yourself, but you can’t post your agency logo on the Grindr network,” she said.
Grindr told China Daily that it has a page on its site called Grindr Health with information on testing facilities or confidential online testing options to help users know their status before engaging in any sexual activity.
“We encourage our users to explore this page and browse through the information to learn the best way to protect both themselves and their sexual partners,” said a spokesperson for the company, adding “Grindr strongly encourages our users to engage in safe sex practices, get tested and know their HIV status.”
Grindr reportedly crashed during the London Olympic Games, apparently due to the massive rise in use when thousands of athletes and support staff arrived in the British capital, the city with the most active Grindr users.