Is online dating contributing to the rise of STI's in Canada?

Flannery Dean

For those singles looking to mingle this weekend, here’s some food for thought: Sexually transmitted infections (STI) such as syphilis, Chlamydia and gonorrhea are on the rise in Canada (via The National Post). According to the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), syphilis cases across Canada have shot up nearly 10-fold in the past decade while Chlamydia rates have increased 66 percent. Another worrying statistic: HIV infections have begun to modestly reemerge as an issue, particularly among heterosexuals and women. 

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The demographics of STIs are changing too. While young people (from age 15 to 29) account for up to 80 percent of cases, rates among middle-aged adults (age 40 to 59) have steadily increased too. 

To explain the change, some public health experts are looking to the increasing popularity of online dating sites, reports the Post. Some speculate that the false sense of familiarity that’s created through online dating sites and wireless technologies encourages people to take greater risks. 

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Pam Krause, executive director of the Calgary Sexual Health Centre, told the Post people might be unwittingly mistaking comprehensive online profiles, email contact, text messages and all of the peripheral communications that go with online dating for greater knowledge of their prospective partner’s sexual history and health status. 

“By the time you meet and start having sexual activity, perhaps you have this sense that you’re really comfortable and you know this person well. So there’s no need to negotiate safer sex,” said Krause. 

A combination of naïveté and maturity when it comes to online dating may be a factor too. Some adults beyond fertility concerns may be less inclined to think about protecting their sexual health; they may also assume more knowledge of their partner than they have, Dr. Jill Grimes told the Post

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Grimes said: "Typically, the more we know someone, the less likely in general we are to think they have an STD…. ‘Oh, they’re like me, they’re not going to have an STD.'"

No firm link has been established between online dating and STIs, but the rising rates of infection do indicate that adults — whether dating online or not — should be taking greater care when it comes to protecting their sexual health.  

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