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How safe is it to meet people over the Internet?
Aug 13, 1998

DO YOU THINK THAT THE INTERNET IS AN UNSAFE REALM WHEN IT COMES TO SAFE SEX AS IN MANY PEOPLE (GAY AND STRAIGHT) MEET PRIMARILY FOR SEX OFF THE NET TO HAVE ANONYMOUS ENCOUNTERS AND SOMETIMES UNPROTECTED? IS THE INTERNET BECOMING THE BAR/BATHHOUSE OF THE NINETIES FOR MINGLING WITH THE WRONG SORT OF PEOPLE?

I KNOW PERSONALLY THE RISKY SEXUAL ENCOUNTERS I HAD RECENTLY WHICH I CAME TO REGRET AND LOATHE, WERE WITH PEOPLE I MET FIRST OVER THE INTERNET AND GOT TO KNOW LATER. EVERYONE I KNOW IS DATING OFF THE INTERNET, FROM MY AUNT, MY COUSIN TO MY FRIENDS AND THEY ALL HAVE MET PEOPLE WHO WANT TO JUST USE THEM FOR SEX. WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THIS?

Response from Mr. Sowadsky

Thank you for your question. You bring up a very important issue. Many people are now using the Internet, and various online services such as America Online (AOL), to meet other people through online message boards, chat rooms, etc. People are now using the Internet to meet other people, as an alternative to bars, parties, newspaper ads, etc. Many people are using the Internet to find their sexual partners (either for long-term relationships or for anonymous/casual sex). Many people find the computer an easier way to meet people. Although the Internet is a great way to meet new people, there are possible dangers in meeting others this way. Think of the Internet as a large city without boarders. Like any city, the Internet has it's good elements (truthful, caring people), but it also has it's bad elements (criminals, con artists, etc.).

When meeting someone online, remember the following:

1) People do not always tell the truth online. You cannot always believe what people may tell you in an e-mail, an Instant Message (IM), in a chat room, or what they write on a message board. If you see a picture of a person (gif, jpg, etc.), it may be another persons picture.

2) Before meeting someone else in-person, spend time talking with them online. The more you talk to a person, the more you will be able to judge how truthful they are.

3) Many married people (and others in long-term relationships, Straight and Gay) are now using the Internet as a way to find sexual partners outside their regular relationships.

4) If you will be meeting someone in-person for the first time, always meet in a public place where there are other people around. This gives you the opportunity to safely leave if you do not feel comfortable with the situation. Examples of places to meet include restaurants, hotel lobbies, and casinos (where there are a lot of surveillance cameras and people). Never meet a person in an isolated or dark place, and never meet a person in their hotel room. There have been many instances of people getting robbed and beaten when people met in isolated places.

5) If you do decide to have sex with them, practice safer sex!

The Internet has been a great way to meet new people, but you should also use caution and common sense. One of the reasons we have established this website, is because we know that people are meeting one another online. This is why the Nevada AIDS Hotline also serves the public through the Internet (e-mail: nvhotline@aol.com) in addition to it's telephone service. The hotline also provides services through various online outreach programs.

If you have any further questions, please feel free to call the Centers for Disease Control at 1.800.232.4636 (Nationwide).



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