Comparison of risk behaviors and socio-cultural profile of MSM survey respondents recruited via venues and the internet
ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND: Increasingly more men who have sex with men (MSM) are using the internet to seek sex partners, and many HIV-related studies targeting MSM collect data from gay venues in order to inform the design of prevention programs. However, internet-based MSM may have different HIV risk behaviors and associated factors from those attending venues. This study examined differences in risk behaviors and socio-cultural profiles between MSM recruited from venues (e.g., gay bars/saunas) and from the internet respectively. METHODS: An anonymous cross-sectional survey was conducted. A total of 566 Chinese MSM (340 recruited from gay-venues and 226 recruited from the internet) who self-reported having had anal or oral sex with another man in the last 12 months completed a structured questionnaire. RESULTS: Internet-based MSM were more likely than venue-based MSM to have engaged in unprotected anal intercourse (53.3% vs. 33.8%) or commercial sex (as clients: 12.8% vs. 5.3%; as sex workers: 6.2% vs. 1.5%), to have sought MSM partners from the internet (51.3% vs. 20.9%), and to have contracted sexually transmitted diseases (STD) in the last 12 months (4.4% vs. 0.3%). On the other hand, internet-based MSM were less likely to have multiple sex partners (58.4% vs. 75.6%) and to have used psychoactive substances (7.1% vs. 15.6%) or drunk alcohol before sex (8.8% vs. 16.2%). Moreover, internet-based MSM reported poor acceptance of their own sexual orientation, felt more discriminated against, and received less social support than venue-recruited MSM. CONCLUSIONS: Significant differences were observed between the two groups of MSM. Segmentation and targeted interventions are recommended when designing preventive interventions.