Tuesday, 18 April 2017


Image Source: Glamour
Written By: Scott Gunnion

It must have been a slow news day when the front page of the Echo was reserved, albeit on a Sunday, to cover the matter of rising levels of HIV in Liverpool.

There can be no doubt that the rise in HIV infections across Merseyside, as alleged in the article, is acutely linked to the increased and ever-increasing popularity of online dating apps. This matter was covered and tackled in Sunday's Echo on the front page and on page 5.

But that alone is not to blame. The way I see things, there have been three generations of gay men throughout the AIDS epidemic.

The first generation found themselves infected unknowingly and eventually died. The second generation were acutely aware of the virus and, consequently, became incredibly vigilant and resistant. The third generation, the current generation, haven't grown up around HIV/AIDS and therefore haven't taken it seriously or ever really acknowledged its presence or its potential impact. It is this generation that finds itself impacted.

And though it has never been easier or more casual to get tested, it is still the case that a stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS dominates and perseveres.

Grindr, Bendr, Hornet, and so on, and so forth. The mobile dating apps have taken over, and the gay scene has suffered indisputably.

Online dating apps have replaced face-to-face dating, irreversibly so. People who would once go out religiously on a Saturday night in search of 'the one', for example, are now content to sit at home tapping away on apps like Grindr without leaving the comfort of their own front room. People who would once cross eyes across a bar now vet one another by their profile pictures and the stats that accompany them.

These apps all have similar sounding names. I've always liked the idea of Koshr for Jewish singles, Burkr for Muslims and Bangra for lonely hearts of Indian descent.

As for rising levels of HIV, with levels of infection rising persistently, I only hope that those at risk get tested at an early stage before the disease has the chance to take hold.

HIV rates may be on the rise, but early testing might squash the burgeoning epidemic. As for online dating apps, a return to traditional dating rituals might go some way to calming the storm.

Yes, online dating apps are partly to blame, but they merely replace the role traditionally played by gay cruising areas. Gay men have a habit of engaging in risky behaviour; they always have done. Mobile dating apps are just the next phrase in the trajectory of inevitably risky gay cruising habits.

If people used condoms, then we wouldn't be faced with these issues. They're given out for free on the gay scene, so there's no excuse.

If we are to fight rising levels of HIV infection, then the gay community has to abandon its inclinations towards risk and embrace safe sex. It isn't hard, but it's imperative if we are to combat the rising epidemic with which we are faced.

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