Online hookup sites increase HIV rates: Study

Washington, June 2 (IANS) The mushrooming of online hookup sites has led to an increase in HIV-infection cases, says a study team which has an Indian American member.

Online hookup sites have made it easier for people to have casual sex — and also easier to transmit sexually transmitted diseases.

“The study underscores the need for broader communication and dissemination of the risks posed by the type of online matching platforms studied here,” said Ritu Agarwal, a professor at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business.

The introduction of Craigslist, an adult dating site, led to an increase in HIV-infection cases of 13.5 percent in Florida over a four-year period, said a study.

Looking at the period from 2002 to 2006, the study found that Craigslist led to an additional 1,149 Floridians contracting HIV. The new HIV cases came disproportionately from one racial-ethnic group, African Americans, who accounted for some 63 percent of the new cases.

“HIV prevention efforts tend to focus on the highest-risk populations, such as the economically disadvantaged, but public-health officials should be aware that online platforms may be ‘changing the game’,” Agarwal added.

“We need to better understand both the beneficial as well as the punitive effects of the Internet on individual and public health,” Agarwal concluded.

The study is forthcoming in the journal Management Science.

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