A University of Adelaide expert believes that the spread of AIDS and HIV in Australia could be partly attributed to social media.
HIV cases in the country increased by ten per cent during the past year. In fact, SA Health revealed that there are over 1,000 individuals in South Australia alone with HIV, while around 50 new diagnoses are recorded each year.
Expert on the history of AIDS and HIV, Associate Professor Paul Sendziuk, said social media along with “meet-up” apps on smartphones are making it easier for individuals to engage in casual sex with strangers.
“Social media is a bit of a double-edged sword. It presents a challenge in that it allows people to hook up for anonymous sex more easily,” noted Professor Sendziuk.
“Having sex with people that they don’t know anything about, who they don’t know how to necessarily communicate with or be maybe particularly honest with… can lead to risky behaviours and possible infections.”
On the other side, social media is used by HIV educators in a really innovative manner to reach out to individuals who might not otherwise receive messages about AIDS, he added.
The increasing trend in AIDS cases is primarily happening in indigenous and gay communities, said Professor Sendziuk.
Moreover, drug use is also helping spread the disease as it encourages unsafe sex.
“This is something we didn’t really have to deal with in the 1980s,” when HIV infection via drug use was only spread through the sharing of syringes and needles, he said.
To date, the real threats lie in recreational drugs, which bring individuals into euphoric states and eventually lower their inhibitions.
Finally, he noted that World AIDS Day on Sunday serves as a timely reminder of the much-needed work to address the spread of the infection.