Faster and Riskier? Online Context of Sex Seeking Among Men Who Have Sex With Men in China

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Abstract

Background

Many men who have sex with men (MSM) seek sex partners online, creating barriers and opportunities for human immunodeficiency virus prevention. The purpose of this study was to examine the characteristics of MSM and the risks associated with seeking sex through websites, gay apps, and both platforms in China.

Methods

Data were collected through a cross-sectional online survey from September through October 2014 from 3 large gay Web portals. Sociodemographic information, sexual behaviors, and online sex seeking behaviors were measured. Multinomial logistic regression was performed to compare sexual risk behaviors among website users, gay app users, and men who used both platforms.

Results

Of the 1201 participants, 377 (31.4%) were website-only users, 487 (40.5%) were gay app-only users, and 337 (28.0%) were men who used both platforms. These 3 MSM subgroups have distinct sociodemographic characteristics. Overall, 57.6% of participants reported having engaged in condomless anal sex with their last male partner in the past 6 months, but there was no significant difference in condomless sex between the 3 groups. Men who used both platforms viewed more sexually transmitted disease-related messages than website-only users (adjusted odds ratio, 2.19; 95% confidence interval, 1.57–3.05).

Conclusions

Condom usage behaviors were unaffected by the medium through which sexual partners were found. However, the high frequency of condomless sex suggests that websites and gay apps are both risk environments. This study suggests using multiple platforms for human immunodeficiency virus/sexually transmitted disease social media interventions may be useful.

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