HIV is disproportionately high among gay men. Evidence suggests that men who have sex with men (MSM) are over 40 times more likely to develop HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases as a result of having unprotected sex than heterosexual men. These men are more likely to experience negative social and mental health consequences as well, including depression and discrimination. Raising the awareness of this risk and educating MSM is critical to decreasing the number of HIV cases among MSM. Community health organizations have tried to reach this segment of the population through public media messages. However, it is important to target this group of men where they are most likely to engage in unsafe sex. Therefore, Christian Grov of the Department of Health and Nutrition Sciences at Brooklyn College at the City University of New York recently led a study to determine where MSM most commonly meet their sexual partners.
Grov conducted an internet survey targeting gay men and asked them where they were most likely to seek out other sexual partners and what their attitudes toward HIV risk prevention were. Grov also asked how often the men were under the influence of drugs and alcohol when they engaged in unprotected sex. Based on the results of the internet survey, Grov found that the three most common places that MSM met other MSM were bathhouses, bars, and on internet sites such as Craigslist. Most of the men surveyed did express an interest in receiving information on HIV and substance use prevention; however, the men in bars were least likely to be willing to accept this information. The findings revealed that despite current efforts to inform MSM about the dangers of unprotected sex, 43% of the men surveyed still practiced sex without the use of a condom.
Of all three venues in which MSM find sexual partners, Craigslist was reported as the most commonly used method. Even men who eventually met other men in bars or in bathhouses said that they discovered these locations through internet searches. Therefore, Grov believes it is important for health organizations to focus their prevention messages on the internet. For men in bathhouses, verbal communication is limited, and health providers may choose to concentrate on keeping their prevention efforts targeted to condom distribution. The men who commonly meet up in bars were the most likely to also report drug or alcohol use prior to sex. Grov said, “Taken together, these findings suggest that any preventative information targeted in bars and clubs should focus on illustrating the connection between substances and sexual behavior.” In sum, these findings demonstrate the need for more HIV awareness strategies for MSM overall in order to decrease the spread of HIV.
Grov, C., Crow, T. (2012). Attitudes about and HIV risk related to the ‘most common place’ MSM meet their sex partners: Comparing men from bathhouses, bars/clubs, and Craigslist.Org. AIDS Education & Prevention 24.2, 102-116.
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