Technology has led to an increase in HIV infection among young people, particularly gay men and male sex workers, in Pakistan, experts have warned.
Mobile apps and social media have opened new avenues for social encounters in the conservative country. Smartphones provide a degree of sexual liberation, a way of connecting with partners away from the streets, reports the Guardian.
“In Pakistan, there has been a rise in HIV among boys and men due to easy access to male dating apps because of advancement in technology and availability of inexpensive gadgets,” said Sophia Furqan, a senior programme officer with the National Aids Control Programme in Pakistan.
HIV rates have jumped dramatically in Pakistan over the past 10 years, from 8,360 people living with HIV in 2005 to nearly 46,000 in 2015 – a 17.6 per cent annual increase, compared with 2.2 per cent worldwide, according to latest survey.
Furqan has helped compile a survey of HIV infections in Pakistan in which about 39 per cent of respondents said they found their sexual partners using mobile apps.
The perceived shame of both homosexuality and HIV in Pakistan and the fact that sex education in Pakistani schools is severely lacking, the risk of spreading STDs is even greater, the Guardian quoted Furqan as saying.
“Only 8.6 per cent of men engaging in same-sex relations who were polled in the recent survey used protection.”
Technology has also triggered an inadvertent rise in infection rates elsewhere.
Health experts in the UK and US have warned dating apps could lead to an increase in sexually transmitted diseases, with apps like Tinder and Grindr making it easier to arrange casual hook-ups with unknown partners.