Syphilis and Grindr are a match

Syphilis is still on the rise in Halifax, and according to Capital Health, dating apps such as Grindr are to blame.

By Brandon Young

Is Capital Health correct in blaming Grindr for increased syphilis cases in Halifax?

Capital Health office in Burnside
Capital Health office in Burnside (Brandon Young/Peninsula News)

What’s up? Syphilis cases.

Syphilis is still on the rise in Halifax, and according to Capital Health, dating apps such as Grindr are to blame.

Capital Health stats indicate that the app is No. 2 on its list of locations (both online and physical) where men report having contracted syphilis, a sexually transmitted infection.

Holly D’Angelo-Scott, an epidemiologist with Capital Health, says the syphilis outbreak can be traced back to the year that Grindr stepped on the scene. According to her, there have been 202 cases of infectious syphilis since the outbreak began in July 2009. Only three of them are women.

Pointing the finger


D’Angelo-Scott addresses the reason why Capital Health blames Grindr for rising syphilis rates. She says patients being tested for STI’s have reported meeting their sexual partners on mobile devices. Of the top five locations for men to meet other men for sex, four of them are websites or mobile apps.

“That’s why we say there is a link,” she says.

D’Angelo-Scott says the rising number of syphilis cases may reflect the fact that more people are informed about the outbreak and are coming forward to be tested. She adds that education surrounding the infection is helping more and more people to get tested and cured while the infection is still in its early stage. In fact, 49 per cent of cases are being caught in the first stage of the infection.

Let’s talk about sex

When it comes to syphilis and dating apps like Grindr, it’s what the users make of it.

“I’ve been using it for about two and a half months and I have very mixed feelings about it,” says Joseph Lajeunesse, a user of the application. “Some days I feel like it’s a very useful app, but at the same time I feel it is not used properly.”

While it is good news that people are being tested, Lajeunesse believes that simply discussing STI’s with prospective sexual partners before arranging an encounter via mobile app can go a long way.

“I think the best time to talk is as soon as possible. Obviously you’re not going to want someone to give you their medical records right away, but not being aware that you have a certain STD might not only be dangerous to your partner, but also to yourself.” he says.

Your business is your business

Lajeunesse believes that testing is crucial, but cites internalized homophobia and fear of being identified as gay as possible deterrents for homosexual men seeking testing.

D’Angelo-Scott, on the other hand, says that workers at sexual health clinics couldn’t care less when it comes to someone’s sexual orientation.

“We don’t really care who sleeps with who,” she says. “It’s no business of ours. We only need it [information] to stop the outbreak.”

Putting it to the test

Ultimately, D’Angelo-Scott says that testing and treatment for syphilis should be relatively easy for most people and that the negative long-term effects of the infection can be avoided.

“Get tested, get treated, and the cure is easy,” she says.