HIV-positive people in the San Francisco area who used the Internet to meet sex partners had more sex partners, had more unprotected sex, and used methamphetamine more than people who did not use the Internet for partnering.
Using the Internet to meet sex partners has become increasingly common over the past decade, but its correlation with risky sex and methamphetamine use are only beginning to be understood. To examine the associations among these behaviors, researchers at a San Francisco county hospital and a university-based clinic undertook this study of HIV-positive people in care.
The study included 657 HIV-positive survey respondents, 504 seen at San Francisco General Hospital and 153 at Moffitt Hospital. Median age was 45 years, 47% were white, 24% black, 12% Latino, 72% men who have sex with men (MSM), 12% women, 12% heterosexual men, and 4% transgendered people.
In 2008 one third of MSM participants (35%), 26% of heterosexual participants, and 11% of women reported using methamphetamine in the past year. Methamphetamine use in the past year was most frequent among MSM (35%), followed by heterosexual men (26%), transgendered people (26%), and women (11%).
Methamphetamine use was steady across recent years—reported by 31% of the study group in 2008, by 35% in a similar population in 2004, and by 33% by a similar population in 2006.
More than one quarter of survey respondents (29%) reported using the Internet to find sex partners.
Compared with people who did not use the Internet for sexual liaison, those who did had a higher median number of sex partners in 6 months (4 versus 1), were more likely to have unprotected sex (32% versus 10%), and had higher methamphetamine use rates in the past 12 months (48% versus 24%).
Among people who used the Internet to find sex partners, 55% of MSM used methamphetamine in the past month, as did 17% of women, 17% of transgendered people, and 8% of heterosexual men.
The researchers suggest that “the common use of sexual networking sites on the Internet to find sex partners and its association with methamphetamine use and HIV transmission risk behavior indicates that additional attention should be focused on the role those sites might have in facilitating the continued spread of HIV infection in the U.S.”
“Given the association among methamphetamine use, increased sex partners and Internet use,” the authors conclude, “the Internet may present a new and effective medium for interventions to reduce methamphetamine-associated sexual risk behavior.”
Source: Taylor Clark, Carina Marquez, C. Bradley Hare, Malcolm D. John, Jeffrey D. Klausner. Methamphetamine use, transmission risk behavior and internet use among HIV-infected patients in medical care, San Francisco, 2008. AIDS and Behavior.2012; 16: 396-403,