Love matters: Internet hookups for men don't always mean unsafe sex

May 23, 2011

If a gay or bisexual man seeks sex or dating online, the type of partner or relationship he wants is a good indicator of whether he'll engage in safe sex, a new study suggests.

Gay men seeking long-term romance online are more likely to engage in than men who want a sexual encounter only, the study shows. This is valuable information because it helps counselors design more effective sexual health interventions, says Jose Bauermeister, assistant professor at the University of Michigan School of Public Health and director of the Sexuality and Health Research Lab.

June marks the 30th anniversary of the discovery of the pneumonia-like illness that later emerged as HIV/AIDS.

Bauermeister says that for are no longer reserved only for sexual hookups and that many sites today exist for men who also seek love, intimacy and long-term romance. Unfortunately, even today the assumption is that gay men use the Internet solely to find , and that HIV-prevention counselors don't talk with clients about love and relationships, he says.

A pair of papers from Bauermeister's research group are among the first to identify and look at four categories of online dating, ranging from hookups only to long-term romance, and the risk behavior associated with each category.

"The takeaway here is just because I go online doesn't mean I'm engaging in risk," Bauermeister said. "It's what kind of partner I'm looking for (that matters), so for HIV prevention purposes if I were going to try to develop an intervention, I need to take that into account."

Much of the literature about online dating looks at the sex-only encounter, which is "predictably unsafe," Bauermeister says. Not much research exists about the other categories of online dating and how they associate with .

In one study, men who reported seeking hookups only engaged in more than men who reported only looking for romance online.

"It's interesting because as a test counselor if you have five or 10 minutes, you need to talk about how to include conversations about love," Bauermeister said. "If you aren't hooking up very often and looking for Mr. Right, you may be engaging in very particular behaviors that decrease your risk of HIV.

"The bigger question is should we include components about romantic relationships into HIV prevention. Those components are not usually included now."

A second paper looks at different dimensions of love, passion, intimacy and commitment to see if different configurations of love could be correlated to different risk behaviors. Young men who think about their future and their in the future are less likely to engage in risky sex in the present, Bauermeister says.

"This is important because counselors, rather than assuming young men only seek hookups, can make a point to discuss the role that romance plays in their lives," Bauermeister said. "For counselors testing for HIV, one of the ways to decrease the risk is by reducing the number of partners. One of the ways to do this is emphasize relationships in HIV prevention."

Explore further: Higher HIV risk in black gay men linked to partner choice, risk perception

More information:
"Mr. Right and Mr. Right Now: Romantic and Casual Partner-Seeking Online Among Young Men Who Have Sex with Men" www.springerlink.com/content/p7002605105037h2

"Romantic Ideation, Partner-Seeking, and HIV Risk Among Young Gay and Bisexual Men" www.springerlink.com/content/671r68487g435364

Related Stories

Higher HIV risk in black gay men linked to partner choice, risk perception

May 2, 2011
Young black men who have sex with men (MSM) get infected with HIV nearly five times more often than MSM from other races, even though they don't have more unprotected sex.

Recommended for you

Girl's HIV infection seems under control without AIDS drugs

July 24, 2017
A South African girl born with the AIDS virus has kept her infection suppressed for more than eight years after stopping anti-HIV medicines—more evidence that early treatment can occasionally cause a long remission that, ...

Meds by monthly injection might revolutionize HIV care (Update)

July 24, 2017
Getting a shot of medication to control HIV every month or two instead of having to take pills every day could transform the way the virus is kept at bay.

Candidate AIDS vaccine passes early test

July 24, 2017
The three-decade-old quest for an AIDS vaccine received a shot of hope Monday when developers announced that a prototype triggered the immune system in an early phase of human trials.

Paris spotlight on latest in AIDS science

July 21, 2017
Some 6,000 HIV experts gather in Paris from Sunday to report advances in AIDS science as fading hopes of finding a cure push research into new fields.

Scientists elicit broadly neutralizing antibodies to HIV in calves

July 20, 2017
Scientists supported by the National Institutes of Health have achieved a significant step forward, eliciting broadly neutralizing antibodies (bNAbs) to HIV by immunizing calves. The findings offer insights for HIV vaccine ...

Heart toxin reveals new insights into HIV-1 integration in T cell genome

July 20, 2017
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-1 may have evolved to integrate its genetic material into certain immune-cell-activating genes in humans, according to new research published in PLOS Pathogens.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.