Tinder blamed for STD spread in Townsville

THE rise of Tinder and unsafe sexual practices are being blamed for an increase in sexually transmitted diseases in the Townsville region.

Health authorities have started general testing for STDs at the region's hospitals with implied consent for all blood samples.

Reported instances of gonorrhoea, a bacterial infection, have risen by more than 17 per cent.

The number of cases of chlamydia has risen by 5.5 per cent in the Townsville Hospital and Health Service district.

Director of the Townsville Public Health Unit Dr Steven Donohue said the increase was mainly among adolescents and young adults.

"A lot of it is just forgetting the basics and that they need to protect themselves with condoms if they have multiple partners or are practising experimental­ or unusual sexual behaviour," he said.

"We think that people have begun to forget some of that stuff.

"We think that cell phones are being used as hook-up devices."

He confirmed Tinder was among the dating apps suspected of being behind the spread of the diseases.

Dr Donohue said the use of alcohol and drugs led to more impulsive sexual behaviours.

"In North Queensland we have high-risk groups such as men who have sex with men. These are men who have female­ and male partners and they're susceptible to a range of sexually transmitted infections including syphilis."

Dr Donohue said there had been an outbreak of syphilis and other STDs among indigenous youth who were often from remote communities and alienated from health services.

He said it was important people practised safe sex, including using condoms and being­ faithful to one partner.

Dr Donohue said sexually transmitted diseases were on the radar for hospitals, general practitioners and specialised units including the sexual health unit and obstetrics and maternity departments.

Rural and remote clinics like the hospital on Palm Island are also focusing on the issue due to higher rates among poor and indigenous communities.

Dr Donohue said in recent years that had been an nationwide climb in the number of STDs.

He said that was because of increased and better testing, as well as an overall increase in the spread of the disease.

"The fact that we're working harder than ever on STIs, you'd expect us to be finding more cases," Dr Donohue said.

"We do a lot of work around training and support and making sure people get tested."