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Online hookup sites may increase HIV rates: Study

Washington: Online hookup sites may lead to an increase in HIV-infection cases, scientists, including one of Indian-origin, claim.

The introduction of Craigslist led to an increase in HIV-infection cases of 13.5 per cent in Florida over a four-year period, according to the study conducted at the University of Maryland.

HIV/AIDS
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Online hookup sites have made it easier for people to have casual sex - and also easier to transmit sexually transmitted diseases, researchers said.

The new study measured the magnitude of the effect of one platform on HIV-infection rates in one state, and offered a detailed look at the varying effects on subpopulations by race, gender and socio-economic status.

Looking at the period 2002 to 2006, it found that Craigslist led to an additional 1,149 Floridians contracting HIV.

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, professor at the university's Robert H Smith School of Business.

It also found that the new HIV cases came disproportionately from one racial-ethnic group, African Americans, who accounted for some 63 per cent of the new cases.

"That is a bit of paradox because research suggests that the African American community is one which uses the Internet the least, even though the gap is narrowing," said Agarwal.

Agarwal and Brad N Greenwood, an assistant professor at Temple University's Fox School of Business focused on whether there was a change in HIV cases in the first full calendar quarter after Craigslist's arrival in a county or city.

For patient data, the researchers drew on a census that included data on some 12 million patients; omitting institutions that had no HIV cases or which were open for only part of the period studied, there were 223 hospitals in the sample.

There was also an increase in new HIV cases among Latinos and Caucasians - although only intermittently statistically significant and not statistically different from each other.

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