A Comparison of Characteristics and Behaviors of Men Having Sex with Men (MSM) Recruited from Gay-identified Venues and MSM Recruited from the Internet

Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Continental Ballroom
Vivian L. Towe, MSc, MA , Epidemiology, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD
Frangiscos Sifakis, PhD, MPH , Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD
Colin Flynn, SCM , AIDS Administration, Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Baltimore, MD
David D. Celentano, ScD, MHS , Epidemiology, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD

The Internet is commonly used by men having sex with men (MSM) to find sex partners. Their behaviors may be more risky than MSM who do not use the Internet to find sex partners.

Ascertain whether MSM recruited using the Internet are comparable in socio-demographic and behavioral characteristics to MSMs recruited at gay-identified venues.

Data were collected from surveys of two CDC surveillance programs in the Baltimore Metropolitan area. In the National HIV Behavioral Surveillance (NHBS) study, MSM attending MSM-identified venues were recruited using Venue-Based Sampling. In the Web-based HIV Behavioral Surveillance study (WHBS), MSM were recruited using banner ads placed on websites targeting a gay male audience and websites targeting broader populations that are frequented by MSM. Data were analyzed using chi-square tests only for those MSM reporting anal intercourse with a man in the past 12 months.

A total of 645 NHBS MSM and 440 WHBS MSM who met the eligibility criteria for inclusion in the analysis also completed surveys. Chi-square test comparisons showed that WHBS MSM had fewer African-Americans (16.8% vs. 57.7%, p<.0001), were younger (18-24 yr olds, 47.0% vs. 25.3%, p<.0001), more educated (at least high school diploma, 74.8% vs. 51%, p<.0001), more likely to have sex with women (13.4% vs. 33.6%, p<.0001), less likely to report being HIV-positive (6.6% vs. 15.9%, p<.0001), less likely to report ever injecting drugs (4.3% vs. 17.2%), and more likely to report unprotected anal intercourse (UAI) (68.7% vs. 52.9%, p=.098).

MSM recruited using the Internet reported more risky sexual behaviors (UAI) than MSM recruited at gay-identified venues. However, any behavioral differences between the two populations are likely to be confounded by socio-demographic characteristics, such as race.

Internet recruitment should not be used as a substitute for conventional field recruitment approaches, but rather a complement to field recruitment.
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