Meeting partners on Craigslist is linked to rise in STDs
Today, not many people post personal ads in their local newspaper. Instead, the practice has taken to the web – namely, via Craigslist and its "casual encounters" pages. Through the online classified ads, people can reach millions of individuals for the sole purpose of finding a sexual partner.
However, as common sense would tell us, strangers seeking sex don't always have the best intentions and others are just plain ignorant about practicing safer sex. This appears to be evident in new findings by researchers at New York University.
A team of scientists from the school's Stern School of Business conducted a study and determined that the availability of Craigslist offerings in a given region correlates with a rise in sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), such as AIDS and syphilis.
"Our study results demonstrate that Craigslist, as a minimally regulated online intermediary with no posting costs, increases the number of transactions taking place, including transactions that have undesirable social consequences," said lead researcher Anindya Ghose.
Authors of the study examined the rates of STDs in the U.S. between 1998 and 2005. They discovered that when local Craigslist ads were made available, rates of AIDS rose by 14 percent, which amounted to 6,658 new diagnoses and potentially $94 million in long-term healthcare costs.
Additionally, use of the online classified ads appeared to result in a 19 percent increase in syphilis cases.
The researchers noted that a rise in AIDS diagnoses was more heavily influenced by a large number of "men seeking men" ads, while syphilis increases were linked to "women seeking men" and "men seeking women" specifications.
Authors of the study noted that the rise in STD rates was more strongly attributed to Craigslist's "casual encounters" section than it was the site's escort or prostitution advertisements.
"Despite the known health risks involved, market participants exert little regulation over their casual sex behavior, resulting in more STD infections and a need for more resources to diagnose and treat infected individuals," said Ghose.
Craigslist launched in 2000 in large cities like New York, Chicago and Boston. In 2011, the site was available to people in 700 cities across 70 countries.
Results of this study suggest that individuals should minimize their use of online classified ads when seeking partners. Additionally, they should always use condoms and get tested for STDs regularly.