Dating apps such as Tinder and Grindr should advertise handouts of free condoms to prevent a surge in sexually transmitted infections, under new NHS advice.
The National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (Nice) says schemes which hand out free or cost-price condoms should target websites used “to find local sexual partners” in a bid to cut the spread of diseases.
The schemes, funded by local authorities, should also advertise on social media, pointing those most at risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) to contraception being handed out by GPs, pharmacies, universities and youth groups.
Councils are also being urged to provide free condoms to children from the age of 13, using schemes which allow teens to look up the nearest provider on their phone.
Dozens of local authorities currently fund such initiatives but Nice said every council should consider following suit. The watchdog said councils should also consider distributing free condoms to sexually active gay men, and to gay or straight people who frequent sex clubs.
Nice said the advice was being issued amid “large disproportionate increases” in diagnoses of STIs among particular groups - including those aged 16 to 24.
Approximately 435,000 sexually transmitted infections were diagnosed in England in 2015. Rates of syphilis and gonorrhoea have increased by 76 per cent and 53 per cent respectively between 2012 and 2015.
Most diagnoses of chlamydia and genital warts were found among young people aged 15 to 24, while most of those of gonorrhoea and syphilis were found in gay men.
Millions of men and women use Tinder, which lets users connect via their phones if they like each others’ pictures. An app called Grindr uses the same model, and is popular among gay men.
Sexual health experts say the apps are driving a rise in casual sex, including unprotected sex.
Christine Carson, programme director of the centre for guidelines at Nice, said: “Although we are seeing an overall decrease in the total number of STIs being diagnosed, there have been large, disproportionate increases in diagnoses among specific groups, such as in young people aged 16-24 and in men who have sex with men.
“Condoms are the best way to prevent most infections being passed on through sex. If local authorities and other commissioners can work together to improve condom availability and use amongst people at high-risk we could significantly reduce the rates of STIs.”
Earlier this week a report by PHE and Royal South Hants Hospital found a “significant decline” in access to sexual health clinics across the UK.
Call data from 220 clinics found that in 2015, 91 per cent of those with symptoms were offered an appointment within 48 hours, a fall from 95.5 per cent a year earlier.