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Editorial: STDs a Serious Issue in the Online Dating World
by Joe Tracy, Publisher of Online Dating Magazine

(January 2004) The growth of the online dating industry has created a serious concern that most online dating services aren't addressing - sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). As more people connect now than ever, thanks to the ease of which online dating brings people together, the growth risk of STDs also grows. This is one main reason that Online Dating Magazine has opened the STD Information Center, an in-depth educational reference on sexually transmitted diseases.

Last Fall, I was shocked when an online dating service put out a press release bragging that 60% of their members had sex on the first date! What this service failed to publicize was the dangers that frequent sex with multiple partners poses, primarily in the spread of STDs.

Unfortunately, few studies have addressed how online dating affects the growth and transmission of STDs. One of the few studies to look at this issue was published in July 2000 by the Journal of the American Medical Association. The objective of the study was "to compare risk of STD transmission for persons who seek sex partners on the Internet with risk for persons not seeking sex partners on the Internet." The conclusion of the study, which included 856 people was, "clients who seek sex using the Internet appear to be at greater risk for STDs than clients who do not seek sex on the Internet."

Another study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association also found a rise in the STD syphilis among people meeting online and having sex. This coincides with news that syphilis rates in the U.S. have risen for two straight years after a decade of declining.

The Honolulu Advertiser newspaper has reported an alarming jump in STDs over the past several years. According to the paper:

"State and federal public health officials say one reason for the rise in these STDs is a loosening of attitudes about safe-sex practices."

This is manifested by the ignorance of agencies not publicly addressing the issue of online dating in the spread of STDs. Education of STDs is vital to people of all ages who are rediscovering romance online. A person who may have previously only dated one or two people a year has found it easy to date dozens of people in a year since the emergence of online dating. As more people are exposed to each other in the dating scene, the exposure to STDs becomes more prevalent.

Further complicating matters is that a person can have an STD without showing any symptoms. This makes it easier to pass on to another unsuspecting person. HPV it rapidly spread in this manner, with only a small percentage of HPV positive people showing symptoms like genital warts. It is estimated that 50% of sexually active people acquire HPV sometime in their life.

Being a part of the online dating scene is a fun and exciting adventure. But with that adventure comes a responsibility to educate yourself, even if you've never had an STD. For example, many people don't realize that several STDs, including Herpes, can be spread from oral sex. Others can be contracted from simple skin-to-skin contact, even if there is no intercourse.

Here are some tips addressing some of the STD dangers associated with online dating:

1) Educate yourself on the various STDs and how they are spread. Visit our STD Information Center to gain valuable insight into STDs.

2) Have a serious STD chat with your partner before engaging in sexual activities, including oral sex or the touching of genital areas. Specifically ask your partner, "do you have any STDs or have you ever been exposed to any STDs?" Ask the person to be honest with you and be equally honest with your partner. If both of you are truly in love then you'll work through the STD issue together. Having an STD is nothing to be ashamed about. Hiding it from your partner is.

3) Remember that the only 100% safe method of not catching an STD is to refrain from sexual activity.

4) Several studies have examined condom use and its role in the prevention of STDs. Click here to read the report.

5) If you think you may have acquired an STD, be sure to be tested. Only a physician can properly diagnose whether you have an STD. If you do, then you'll be able to get treatment either for the disease, the symptoms, or both. While some STDs aren't curable, others are.

6) If you feel the need to talk to someone about an STD concern you have, then call the National CDC STD Hotline. The number is 800-342-2437 (at the menu prompt, press 1).

If you do have an STD, don't feel like you're alone. According to the Sexuality Information and Education Council more than 65 million Americans have an incurable STD.

By being aware of STDs, how they are spread, how to prevent them, and how to treat them, you are on the road to creating a safer online dating environment for yourself and others.

Joe Tracy
jtracy@onlinedatingmagazine.com



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