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France: Online Chatter a Promoter of Unsafe Sex -- Expert

September 16, 2009

In a survey of some 2,600 users of a French Web service for finding partners, most gay men chatting online did not anticipate later having unprotected sex. However, online discussions of sexual fantasies often preceded sex without a condom, the study found.

"Something very specific is created in the dynamic of chatting that produces risk," said Dr. Philippe Adams, a research fellow at the University of New South Wales’ National Center in HIV Social Research. "I think the processes are similar for everybody, whether people are heterosexual or gay, it doesn’t really matter," said Adams, who presented the findings at the recent Australasian HIV/AIDS Conference 2009 in Brisbane, Australia.

Of the Web users surveyed, 96 percent said they intended to use a condom for any subsequent sexual encounter. Nonetheless, 32 percent later had unprotected sex when they physically met the online partner. In an analysis of previous online behavior, persons whose chats referred to risky sex were more likely to later engage in it. Fewer than 5 percent of users actually sought out unprotected sex, Adams said.

"In fact, people go online without having the intention to take risk, but they start progressively engaging in sharing fantasies online, sometimes they accept some fantasies around unprotected sex, and this creates scripts in their mind that influence their real-life behavior," Adams said.

Adams said people online seeking encounters should differentiate between chats where sex is sought and those in which only fantasies will be indulged. In the latter, chatting can produce an "accelerated sense of intimacy," Adams said. "People talk a lot on the Internet, and very often they forget to renegotiate protection when they meet face to face." In addition, people meeting their online chat partners for sex should be prepared to have a "cool down" message, and they should always engage in safe sex, advised Adams.

Back to other news for September 2009

Adapted from:
Australian Associated Press
09.10.2009; Danny Rose

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
Fact Sheet: HIV/AIDS and Young Men Who Have Sex With Men
More on HIV Prevention Research in Gay Men


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