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Tuesday, May 9, 2006 - 3:15 PM

Choice-based conjoint: A new methodological approach to assess sexual practices and decision making among men who have sex with men (MSM) cruising the Internet for sex

Jorge A. Montoya1, Aaron Plant2, and Peter R. Kerndt1. (1) Sexually Transmitted Disease Program, Los Angeles County Department of Health Services, 2615 S. Grand Ave., Room 500, Los Angeles, CA, USA, (2) Sexually Transmitted Disease Program, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, 2615 S. Grand Avenue, Room 500, Los Angeles, CA, USA

A better understanding of MSM sexual decisions with Internet partners is important because these men are at higher risk of acquiring HIV and/or other STDs. Used predominately in market research, a choice-based conjoint design will be used to assess the attributes (e.g., preferences, physical characteristics, serostatus) MSM consider when choosing sexual partners. In effect, this methodology will allow us to examine trade-offs MSM are making in their decision to engage or not engage in risky sexual behaviors. This information is necessary to inform the design of prevention messages that can be more effectively tailored for this high-risk group of MSM.

The objective of this study is to investigate how MSM make partner-selection and sexual-practice decisions with Internet sex partners.

500 MSM will be surveyed online and asked to engage in a trade-off exercise where they will be presented with a series of profiles that differ in partner attributes including demographic and physical characteristics, serostatus, drug use, type of sex being sought, and condom use. Collecting these decisions in a choice-based conjoint design will produce a model of attributes MSM consider in choosing sex partners and sexual practices engaged in. Partner-attribute profiles for this exercise were developed from focus groups comprised of MSM.

Analyses will examine the importance of different attributes when potential sexual partners are being chosen, the utility of different levels for each attribute in the decision-making process, and how decisions differ among different subgroups of MSM (i.e., HIV status, behavioral risk, drug use, ethnicity, age).

Results from this study will contribute to the design of online behavioral surveillance instruments, internet-based interventions, and HIV prevention messages targeting MSM who find sex partners on the internet.

A choice-based conjoint design and analysis presents a rigorous alternative to most currently used behavioral surveillance instruments and can inform intervention design and policy.