Use and Perceptions of the Internet for Sexual Information and Partners: A Study of Young Men Who Have Sex with Men
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The Internet has opened many doors with its accessibility to information, entertainment and web-based communities. For young men who have sex with men (YMSM), the Internet can provide access to information on relevant sexual behavior and health information, stories from other men about relationship issues, and a venue for locating potential sexual and dating partners. Understanding YMSM’s motivations for going online for information, advice or sexual relationships, is important as the Internet becomes increasingly used not only as a space to find sexual partners, but also as a venue for HIV and STI interventions. Having an understanding of the risks associated with searching for partners online, and how and why YMSM use the Internet for a variety of purposes, can inform the development of more effective Internet-based risk reduction programs. This article presents qualitative and quantitative data from the Healthy Young Men’s Study, a longitudinal study of an ethnically diverse cohort of 526 YMSM. Qualitative interviews (N = 24) described not only the prevalence of using the Internet for finding sexual partners and the possible benefits and risks associated with that practice, but also the processes and perceptions of using this mechanism. Our data indicate that YMSM used the Internet to find information related to sex and sexuality, seek friendships, sexual partners as well as “hook-ups” or casual sex. Findings were presented in relation to how YMSM researchers and interventionists can identify how to most effectively reach YMSM through online methods.
KeywordsYoung men who have sex with men Internet Gay/homosexual Relationships Sexual education
The project described was supported by Grant Number R01DA015638 from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institute on Drug Abuse or the National Institutes of Health. The authors would like to acknowledge the contributions of the many staff members and project interns who contributed to collection, management, analysis, and review of this data: Cesar Arauz-Cuadra, Marianne Burns, Judith Grout, Donna Lopez, Miles McNeeley, Marcia Reyes, Katherine Riberal, Talia Rubin, Conor Schaye, Maral Shahanian, Meghan Treese, Carolyn F. Wong, and Joseph Zhou. The authors would also like to acknowledge the insightful and practical commentary of the members of The Community Advisory Board: Asian Pacific AIDS Intervention Team (Noel Alumit), LA County Dept of Health Services (Chi-Wai Au), Los Angeles Black Pride (Ivan Daniels III), AIDS Project Los Angeles (Ray Fernandez), Youth/Trent Jackson Media Group (Trent Jackson), LA Gay and Lesbian Center (Dustin Kerrone), Division of Adolescent Medicine, CHLA (Miguel Martinez), West Coast Ballroom Scene (Ariel Prodigy), West Coast Ballroom Scene (Brion Ramses), City of LA AIDS Coordinator’s Office (Ricki Rosales), Minority AIDS Project (Haquami Sharpe), Bienestar (Pedro Garcia), St. Mary’s Medical Center Long Beach (Carlos Ruiz), IN Magazine (Ramy Eletreby), Minority AIDS Project (Kevin Williams), Minority AIDS Project (Rev. Charles E. Bowen), UCLA Integrated Substance Abuse Programs (Tom Freese).
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