On June 23, 2004 HIV InSite and the Center for AIDS Prevention Studies convened a panel of experts to discuss the increasing popularity of the Internet as a medium to meet sexual partners among men who have sex with men. Greg Rebchook, UCSF Center for AIDS Prevention Studies, said:
I can start addressing that question about evidence that MSM recruited from online venues or using chat rooms have higher rates of, or they are reporting higher rates of, unprotected anal intercourse with their partners than men in other venues. Several different studies have been done. National studies in the U.S. have documented high rates of unprotected sex among men recruited from online venues and there are several European studies that have looked at comparing, guys who say that they actually are using chat rooms to those that are not using chat rooms and there is a lot of information, a lot of data, showing that the chat room users are actually reporting higher rates of unprotected sex than the non-chat room users. There are also higher rates of men reporting STD infections, who are using chat rooms, and so it is a very consistent finding that a lot of different studies and a lot of different research groups are picking up that these higher rates are existing. Our own data actually show that even when you are controlling for the number of sexual partners that men are having, that Internet use still contributes to unprotected sex significantly, even controlling for the number of sex partners.
According to the 2006 National STD Prevention Conference findings:
Among this mature (median age 35), mostly white (86.6%), well-educated (54.9% > college graduate), and higher income (49.0% > $40,000 /yr) sample of mostly gay men (83.4%): 61.8% had anal intercourse with sex partners at least half the time, 28.1% knew the HIV status and 46.7% knew the STD status/history of sex partners less than half the time, and 24.1% were drunk or high before sex at least half the time. 45.9% of men reported not using condoms during last sex. The median number of lifetime sex partners was 50 (IQR: 20-160), of which half were found online. 16.9% of men increased their level of risk with Internet vs. off-line partners. Factors associated with increased risk included age > 35 (OR = 2.63; p = 0.02) and being HIV+ (OR = 2.53; p= 0.12).
Two recent International studies report:
Internet gay sex sites are the leading environments where men meet men for sex in the United States and in similar, developed countries. The main reason for this popularity appears to be the increased ability to help men conveniently and quickly locate sex partners compared to offline methods. Other benefits include anonymity, especially for those who fear stigma; accessibility to more potential partners; and affordability. Also, the Internet offers a sense of protection that often makes people less inhibited in terms of expressing their desires, allowing men to more rapidly find partners who are willing to engage in their sexual fantasies. A 2011 French study of 2058 MSM demonstrated this by showing a significant increase in unprotected anal intercourse (UAI) between partners who met after discussing online the desire to engage in this risky behavior i. Venue-based surveys have estimated that up to 85% of MSM report some recent Internet use. As many as 94% claim to ever having had sex with a partner met online, and up to 78% report sex with an online partner in the prior 6 months ii.
Most of this data was extremely difficult to track down, as the gay advocates would rather have information such as this kept buried. But what is undeniable: homosexuality puts those that participate at a much higher health risk; those who “hook-up” on-line are playing Russian roulette. As for myself, I missed the Internet revolution, as I was an active homosexual during the 1990s. I met my first lovers in the gay bathhouses and sex-clubs in San Francisco in the late-80s. Most of us new guys, just entering the lifestyle, were still petrified of AIDS. But a huge wall of older men had to be passed through in order to join the gay cult. They inevitably pressured us to take part in risky behavior. As a young guy of 19, I quickly got scooped up by several older, wealthy, gentleman who passed me around their circle of friends. Many liked to video-tape our encounters. By the time I reached my late-20s, I was thoroughly used-up. I couldn’t do porn anymore, so I turned to hustling. Even in the late-90s, guys still picked each other up at the cruisey locales in the City; not in chat-rooms. During one of my last tricks, a man put a knife to my throat. By the time I left the lifestyle, on-line encounters were becoming the norm. Years later, after I had to have several surgeries, in order to repair the damage to my anus, I got terribly lonely. I missed all my friends back in the Castro. Feeling desperate, I went on-line. I started chatting with several gay men. One wanted to hook-up in real time. He asked if he could mount me, I said: I couldn’t do that anymore. When I explained why, it turned him on and he wanted to bust my stitches. My last hapless search for companionship in the gay world would be the final excursion for me.
I pray that all of my brothers in the gay community will turn off the computer. I love you all, and God bless.
i Adam, Philippe, C. G. When do online sexual fantasies become reality? The contribution of erotic chatting via the Internet to sexual risk-taking in gay and other men who have sex with men. Health Education Research. Vol.26 no.3 2011. Pages 506–515,
ii Rosser, Simon, B. R. et al. The Future of Internet-Based HIV Prevention: A Report on Key Findings from the Men’s INTernet (MINTS-I, II) Sex Studies. AIDS Behav (2011) 15:S91–S100.