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The Relationship between Online Social Networking and Sexual Risk Behaviors among Men Who Have Sex with Men (MSM)


Online social networking usage is growing rapidly, especially among at-risk populations, such as men who have sex with men (MSM). However, little research has studied the relationship between online social networking usage and sexual risk behaviors among at-risk populations. One hundred and eighteen Facebook-registered MSM (60.1% Latino, 28% African American; 11.9% other) were recruited from online (social networking websites and banner advertisements) and offline (local clinics, restaurants and organizations) venues frequented by minority MSM. Inclusion criteria required participants to be men who were 18 years of age or older, had had sex with a man in the past 12 months, were living in Los Angeles, and had a Facebook account. Participants completed an online survey on their social media usage and sexual risk behaviors. Results from a multivariable regression suggest that number of sexual partners met from online social networking technologies is associated with increased: 1) likelihood of having exchanged sex for food, drugs, or a place to stay within the past 3 months; 2) number of new partners within the past 3 months; 3) number of male sex partners within the past 3 months; and 4) frequency of engaging in oral sex within the past 3 months, controlling for age, race, education, and total number of sexual partners. Understanding the relationship between social media sex-seeking and sexual risk behaviors among at-risk populations will help inform population-focused HIV prevention and treatment interventions.

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