Chat rooms on gay Web sites are becoming a common place for arranging risky sexual encounters, a new survey has found, and experts say the chat rooms could be playing a role in rising HIV infection rates among gay and bisexual men. "The Internet is a new venue associated with high-risk sex," said Sabina Hirshfield, one of the study's authors. "It is a quick and easy way to meet partners."
Research presented at the 10th annual Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Boston showed that of 3,000 men surveyed who frequently visited the popular gay Web site Gay.com, 84% used the Internet to find sex partners. About two thirds reported recently having unprotected anal sex with someone they met online, while about one quarter of the men said they have had more than 100 sex partners during their lives. The majority of the survey respondents were college-educated white men. Half were under the age of 30.
"We are concerned, and we are looking very carefully at these trends for what they might do in the future," Ron Valdiserri, deputy director of the National Center for HIV, Sexually Transmitted Diseases, and Tuberculosis Prevention at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said of the study's findings.