Research authors (Matthew R. Beymer, Robert K. Bolan, Linda B. Bourque, Donald E. Morisky, Ellen T. Rudy and Robert E. Weiss) wanted to discover whether these apps altered men’s behaviors and infection risks. They collected data from HIV-negative gay/bisexual men who sought services from the Center’s dedicated sexual health clinic from 2011 to 2013.
7,184 men were tested for STI and provided information about their recreational drug use and social networking methods to find potential sexual partners. One-third (34 percent) of the respondents met sexual partners in person only; a slightly smaller proportion (30 percent) used a combination of person-to-person or online dating; and a slightly larger proportion (36 percent) used smartphone apps and/or a combination of previously mentioned methods.
According to the authors, smartphone apps were favored by younger, well-educated men under the age of 40 and by men of white or Asian ethnic backgrounds. App users were also more likely to use recreational drugs, including cocaine and Ecstasy.
Their analysis further showed that men who used smartphone apps to meet other men for sex were more likely to have common STI than those who met their partners in clubs and bars. They were 25 percent more likely to be infected with gonorrhea and 37 percent more likely to be infected with chlamydia. However, there was no difference in their likelihood of infection with either HIV or syphilis.
The authors suggest that smartphone apps make it easier to meet potential partners more quickly than online or traditional methods; thereby, boosting the chances of anonymous and riskier encounters, and of contracting STI. Additionally, they point out their findings may not be applicable to gay/bisexual men in other areas or to those not attending a dedicated sexual health clinic.