Casual Encounters on Craigslist Could Land You an STD or Two

People are buying more than just used cars and furniture on Craigslist. Known as the “Best Place to Find Free STDs”, Craigslist has become a popular place to peruse the most explicitly-direct sexual desires.

No longer are people resorting to or eHarmony for a quick date, but instead, are using Craigslist’s free-of-charge “Casual Encounters” page where they can potentially reach millions of individuals for the sole purpose of having sex. According to a study conducted at NYU’s Stern School of Business, 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, a minimally regulated online intermediary with no posting costs, increases the number of transactions taking place, including transactions that have undesirable social consequences,” Anindya Ghose, the study’s lead researcher, said.

Researchers analyzed the rates of STDs in the U.S. between 1998 and 2005. They found 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 health care costs. In addition, use of the online classified ads appeared to result in a 19 percent increase in syphilis cases. 

The University of Minnesota found that Craigslist casual encounters were responsible for a 15.9 percent surge in HIV cases from 1999-2008.

 It was determined that a rise in AIDS diagnosis 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.

The San Francisco-based classified ads website ran “erotic” and “adult” ads on its personal section for a decade after its establishment in 1999 but dropped the ads after criticism that it was promoting prostitution and sexual trafficking. 

Science Daily reported the risk of contracting HIV and other STDs was higher among the general public using personal ads for casual sex than with the ads by professional sex workers.

Jason Chan, assistant professor of information and decision sciences at the University of Minnesota, found that “non-market-related casual sex” is the primary reason for the increase in HIV cases, in contrast to “paid transactions solicited” (escort services and prostitution), which showed a negative relationship with HIV trends.

“This suggests that professional sex workers are more aware of the risks associated with casual sexual relations and practice safer sex more consistently,” the authors of the report said.

Results from the studies suggest that individuals minimize their use of online classified ads when seeking partners. Additionally, users should always use condoms and get tested for STDs regularly.

*Since this has been published, Craigslist has removed Casual Encounters from its site in an effort to cut down on sex trafficking. We now consider this an archived post*

Medically Reviewed by on October 31, 2023

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Author: Nick Corlis

Nick Corlis is a writer, marketer, and designer. He graduated from Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas, with a degree in Digital Communications. Nick is proud to be able to help eliminate the stigma of STD testing through his writing and is always trying to advocate the importance of your sexual health. Before STDcheck, his favorite way to develop his writing skills was by accepting various writing jobs in college and maintaining multiple blogs. Nick wears many hats here at STDcheck, but specifically enjoys writing accurate, well-researched content that is not only informative and relatable but sometimes also contains memes. When not writing, Nick likes to race cars and go-karts, eat Japanese food, and play games on his computer.