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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. Men who have sex with other men (MSM) account for more than one-half of all new HIV infections in the USA.
This study reports on the prevalence of a variety of HIV risk behaviors in one specific subpopulation of risk-seeking MSM. The study was based on a national sample of 332 MSM who use the Internet to find partners for unprotected sex.
Data collection was conducted via telephone interviews between January 2008 and May 2009. Unprotected oral and anal sex was commonplace among study participants.
Men engaged in a large number of other risky behaviors as well, including having had multiple recent sex partners (mean number = 11), simultaneous double-penile penetration of the anus (16%), eating semen out of another man’s anus (17%), engaging in multiple-partner sexual encounters (47%), engaging in anonymous sex (51%), and having sex while “under the influence” (52%). HIV intervention and prevention programs need to address numerous behaviors that place MSM at risk for contracting/transmitting HIV.
The data reported in this paper come from The Bareback Project, a National Institute on Drug Abuse-funded study of men who use the Internet specifically to find other men with whom they can engage in unprotected sex.
The data were collected between January 2008 and May 2009.
For example, in a sample of gay men who were recruited into a health promotion study via gay-oriented Internet websites, Bolding and colleagues’  multivariate analysis revealed that the amount of risky sex in which men engaged was a significant predictor of their use of Internet websites to locate sex partners. also reported that 47% of the men in their sample said that, when they wanted to identify potential sex partners, they preferred using websites to frequenting bars or other “offline” venues.
In another study , among men actively using the Internet as a means of locating potential sex partners, 97% reported actually having met someone online for sex, and 86% said that they used Internet MSM sex sites at least once a week to identify possible partners.
 concluded that using the Internet to identify sex partners is associated with an increased risk of engaging in unprotected anal intercourse among HIV-negative MSM, but not among HIV-positive MSM.
A nationwide sample of men was derived, with random selection being based on a combination of the first letter of the person’s online username, his race/ethnicity (as listed in his profile), and the day of recruitment.
Each day, members of the research staff working on recruitment had three letters or numerals assigned to them for their use that day.
Although numerous authors (cited previously) have reported that identifying sex partners via the Internet is associated with involvement in risky behaviors vis-a-vis HIV, their research has provided very little information about the extent to which men seeking sex online engage in specific behaviors that place them or their sex partners at risk for contracting HIV. This paper examines the extent to which one specific subpopulation of MSM (namely, those who use the Internet for the express purpose of finding partners with whom they can engage in unprotected sex) engages in various behaviors that place them and their sex partners at risk for contracting HIV.
The research contributes to the scholarly literature by documenting the prevalence of specific risk practices undertaken when members of this population use the Internet to find sex partners.