Background: The Internet has emerged as a place where men who have sex with men (MSM) meet other men for sex. Though research has examined the association between Internet sex seeking behavior (ISB) and risky sexual behavior, very little attention has been given to young MSM in the southern US, a population and region disproportionately impacted by HIV/AIDS. Thus, this study examined the relationship between ISB and risky sexual behavior (unprotected anal intercourse [UAI], casual sex, and previous STI) among young MSM in the southern US.
Methods: Two-hundred and sixty-three (263) men between 18 and 29 years, who reported sex with another man, and resided in the southern US were recruited online and offline. Bivariate analysis and sequential logistic regression were conducted to determine unadjusted and adjusted associations between ISB and risky sexual behavior. Covariates included race, age, age at first sexual intercourse, educational level, and annual income.
Results: Study sample was predominantly black (70%) self-identified as gay (77%), with a mean age of 21.9 years. Respondents reported UAI (75%), casual sex (88%), previous STI (20%), and ISB (61%). Significant bivariate correlates of ISB included white race (p<.05), self-identifying as gay (p<.01), UAI (p<.001), casual sex (p<.001), older age (p<.05), and a previous STI (p<.001). Multivariate analysis showed respondents who reported ISB were more likely to report UAI (p<.01), casual sex (p<.001), and a previous STI (p<.01).
Conclusions: Findings suggest a high prevalence of ISB, with MSM who engage in ISB more likely to report risky sexual behavior. Web-based and mobile-based HIV/AIDS interventions that mitigate sexual risk and vulnerability online, and that are tailored to young MSM are needed. These interventions should equip young MSM with skills to safely navigate online communities, negotiate consistent safe sex, and get tested for HIV regularly, while stressing the sexual risk associated with ISB.