Advertisement
The Body: The Complete HIV/AIDS Resource
Follow Us Follow Us on Facebook Follow Us on Twitter Download Our App
Professionals >> Visit The Body PROThe Body en Espanol
  
  • Email Email
  • Printable Single-Page Print-Friendly
  • Glossary Glossary

National News

Online Access to Risky Sex

July 30, 2002

A note from TheBody.com: Since this article was written, the HIV pandemic has changed, as has our understanding of HIV/AIDS and its treatment. As a result, parts of this article may be outdated. Please keep this in mind, and be sure to visit other parts of our site for more recent information!

Gay and bisexual men looking for quick sex increasingly are turning to the Internet, and they are doing so at far greater rates than their heterosexual counterparts. As a result, public health experts say, they are speeding the spread of HIV and other STDs.

The same accessibility and anonymity that make the Web so popular also make it dangerous to sex-seeking users, multiplying "the probability of high-risk people meeting high-risk people," said Colorado epidemiologist John Potterat. Sex-oriented chat rooms could become "the eBay of homosexual sex," he said.

Officials have no means of systematically monitoring the sites. "We are not keeping up," said Peter Kerndt, director of STD control for Los Angeles County. Worse than that, "we have little sense of what approaches would be effective." The numbers are large, according to Gay.com. Over 150,000 members sign on to the chat rooms every day.

In California, Colorado, Kentucky, Maine, and other states, public health officials have tracked outbreaks of STDs to chat room meetings. In San Francisco, 18 percent of the gay and bisexual men diagnosed with early forms of syphilis last year said they had found sex partners on the Internet. In Los Angeles County, the figure was 13 percent.

Advertisement
With the help of disease investigators in 1999, Dr. Jeffrey Klausner, San Francisco's STD controller, linked seven men's syphilis infections to an overlapping network of 99 recent sexual partners. One of the infected men had 47 partners. Staff and volunteers spent hours on AOL's chat rooms alerting users to the outbreak. In the end, fewer than half of the seven men's sexual partners were notified and tested because there is no way of actually identifying a user who uses an online screen name and changes it regularly. Internet providers won't release the real identities of users except by court order. Today, the San Francisco Health Department pays Gay.com to run banner advertisements in its West Coast chat rooms and arranges for Klausner to answer user's questions.

Back to other CDC news for July 30, 2002

Previous Updates

Adapted from:
Los Angeles Times
07.26.02; Charles Ornstein

A note from TheBody.com: Since this article was written, the HIV pandemic has changed, as has our understanding of HIV/AIDS and its treatment. As a result, parts of this article may be outdated. Please keep this in mind, and be sure to visit other parts of our site for more recent information!



  
  • Email Email
  • Printable Single-Page Print-Friendly
  • Glossary Glossary

This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
 
See Also
Quiz: Are You at Risk for HIV?
Ten Common Fears About HIV Transmission
Is HIV the Only Incurable Sexually Transmitted Disease?
The HIV-STD Connection
More News on Sexually Transmitted Diseases

Tools
 

Advertisement