Study Links Craigslist With Higher HIV Rates

Jessie Cohen | Contributor

A study conducted by two professors found that HIV rates jumped in areas of Florida where Craigslist began offering its services, the University of Maryland’s Diamondback newspaper reports.

The study was co-authored by Brad Greenwood, assistant professor at Temple University’s Fox School of Business, and Ritu Agarwal, professor at the University of Maryland’s Smith School of Business and senior associate dean for faculty and research.

The research compared the number of HIV-positive patients in cities where Craigslist has a major presence to areas where the website is not heavily used. After a four-year study, the data found correlation between online dating and negative health effects.

Craigslist is a worldwide marketplace where goods are bought and sold, or given away for free. The site also includes sections of personal dating ads. (RELATED: Flashmob Hater Turns To Craigslist For Help In Hilarious Post)

Agarwal suspected that the convenience and anonymity of these websites would increase the risk of this type of behavior. Craigslist and other online dating sides make “the act of ‘hooking up’ easier and more hassle free than was previously possible,” Agarwal wrote in an email to The Diamonback.

Kenyon Crowley, deputy directory of the Maryland business school’s Center for Health Information and Decision Systems, told the campus paper, “As our society becomes more connected through social media and online communities, it’s not surprising that the speed of the disease might be enhanced. … The growth of that infection seems to make sense.”

Greenwood explained that the research conducted can be applicable to dating sites such as Tinder and Grindr, but there is not enough information to be applied to other outlets.

“Our study was able to measure the effect of Craigslist rigorously because of the staggered manner in which it was rolled out over the state of Florida. … These other websites have not followed a similar strategy so econometrically, we cannot estimate their effects easily,” Agarwal explained in an email.

The study was accepted for publication in April by “Management Science.” It will also be presented at several peer-reviewed academic conferences along with being formally published in print within the upcoming months.

“I hope that steps are taken to identify to individuals the risks of using these platforms,” Greenwood stated. “We should be cognizant of the risks and benefits that come from these emerging business models.”

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