Skip to main content

Hookups or Health Promotion? An Exploratory Study of a Chat Room-Based HIV Prevention Intervention for Men Who Have Sex With Men

This study sought to explore an online intervention that was initiated by an AIDS service organization to reduce sexual risk within a geographically-oriented chat room frequented by men who have sex with men (MSM). Analyses of bio lines, user profiles, and chat room discussions were used to understand and characterize the online prevention intervention. Six predominate discussion topics were identified, including (a) sexual risk reduction strategies (e.g., safer “barebacking”), (b) HIV testing options, (c) local alternatives for nonsexual social support, (d) referrals for youth, (e) resources related to “coming out,” and (f) access to risk reduction materials and supplies. The perceived anonymity promoted by the Internet and the health educator's established relationship with the men in the chat room contributed to the success of this intervention. This analysis suggests that an online HIV/AIDS prevention intervention may reach MSM inaccessible in traditional venues typically used for intervention delivery.


  • Atkinson, P., & Hammersley, M. (1998). Ethnography and participant observation. In N. K. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), Strategies of qualitative inquiry (pp. 110–136). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Google Scholar
  • Bandura, A. (1986). Social foundations of thought and action: A social cognitive theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall. Google Scholar
  • Benotsch , E. G., Kalichman, S., & Cage, M. (2002). Men who have met sex partners via the Internet: Prevalence, predictors, and implications for HIV prevention. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 31(2), 177–183. Crossref MedlineGoogle Scholar
  • Binik , Y. M., Mah, K., & Kiesler, S. (1999). Ethical issues in conducting sex research on the Internet. Journal of Sex Research, 36(1), 82–90. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
  • Bull , S. S., & McFarlane, M. (2000). Soliciting sex on the Internet: What are the risks for sexually transmitted diseases and HIV? Sexually Transmitted Diseases, 27(9), 545–550. Crossref MedlineGoogle Scholar
  • Bull , S. S., McFarlane, M., & King, D. (2001). Barriers to STD/HIV prevention on the Internet. Health Education Research, 16(6), 661–670. Crossref MedlineGoogle Scholar
  • Clark, L. F., Aaron, L., Littleton, M., Pappas-Deluca, K., Avery, J. B., McKleroy, V. S. (1999). Stress, coping, social support, and illness. In J. M. Raczynski & R. J. DiClemente (Eds.), Handbook of health promotion and disease prevention (pp. 123–145). New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum. Google Scholar
  • Cornwall , B., & Lundgren, D. C. (2001). Love on the Internet: Involvement and misrepresentation in romantic relationships in cyberspace vs. realspace. Computers in Human Behavior, 17, 197–211. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
  • Douglas-Brown, L. (2001, October 12). Prevention efforts are going online. The Washington Blade. Google Scholar
  • Elford , J., Bolding, G., & Sherr, L. (2001). Seeking sex on the Internet and sexual risk behaviour among gay men using London gyms. AIDS, 15(11), 1409–1415. Crossref MedlineGoogle Scholar
  • Fetterman, D. (1998). Ethnography. London: Sage. Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Herder & Herder. Google Scholar
  • Hospers , H. J., Harterink, P., Van Den Hoek, K., & Veenstra, J. (2002). Chatters on the Internet: A special target group for HIV prevention. AIDS Care, 14(4), 539–544. Crossref MedlineGoogle Scholar
  • Kelly , J. A., Murphy, D. A., Sikkema, K. J., McAuliffe, T. L., Roffman, R. A., Solomon, L. J., et al. (1997). Randomised, controlled, community-level HIV-prevention intervention for sexual-risk behaviour among homosexual men in US cities. Community HIV Prevention Research Collaborative. Lancet350(9090):1500–5 Crossref MedlineGoogle Scholar
  • Kim , A. A., Kent, C., McFarland, W., & Klausner, J. D. (2001). Cruising on the Internet highway. Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes, 28(1), 89–93. Crossref MedlineGoogle Scholar
  • Koch, S., & Schockman, H. E. (1998). Democratizing Internet access in the lesbian, gay and bisexual communities. In B. L. Ebo (Ed.), Cybergetto or cybertopia? Race, class and gender on the Internet (pp. 170–184). Westport, CT: Praeger. Google Scholar
  • Leaning, M. (1998). Cyborg Selves. Retrieved February 28, 2003, from from Google Scholar
  • Lelchuk, I. (1999, August 26). Net syphilis issue spurs hate mail. San Francisco Examiner. Google Scholar
  • McFarlane , M., Bull, S. S., & Rietmeijer, C. A. (2000). The Internet as a newly emerging risk environment for sexually transmitted diseases. Journal of the American Medical Association, 284(4), 443–446. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
  • Pilcher , C. D., McPherson, J. T., Leone, P. A., Smurzynski, M., Owen-O'Dowd, J., Peace-Brewer, A. L., et al. (2002). Real-time, universal screening for acute HIV infection in a routine HIV counseling and testing population. Journal of the American Medical Association, 288(2), 216–221. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
  • Prochaska, J. O., & DiClemente, C. C. (1984). The transtheoretical approach: Crossing the traditional boundaries of therapy. Homewood, IL: Dow Jones/Irwin. Google Scholar
  • Prochaska, J. O., Redding, C. A., & Evers, K. E. (1997). The transtheoretical model and stages of change. In K. Glanz & F. M. Lewis & B. K. Rimer (Eds.), Health behavior and health education: Theory, research and practice (2nd ed., pp. 60–84). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Google Scholar
  • Rhodes , S. D., Bowie, D. A., & Hergenrather, K. C. (2003). Collecting behavioural data using the World-Wide Web: Considerations for researchers. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 57, 68–73. Crossref MedlineGoogle Scholar
  • Rhodes , S. D., DiClemente, R. J., Cecil, H., Hergenrather, K. C., & Yee, L. J. (2002). Risk among men who have sex with men in the United States: A comparison of an Internet sample and a conventional outreach sample. AIDS Education and Prevention, 14(1), 41–50. LinkGoogle Scholar
  • Rhodes , S. D., DiClemente, R. J., Yee, L. J., & Hergenrather, K. C. (2001). Factors associated with testing for hepatitis C in an Internet-recruited sample of men who have sex with men. Sexually Transmitted Diseases, 28(9), 515–520. Crossref MedlineGoogle Scholar
  • Rhodes , S. D., Grimley, D. M., & Hergenrather, K. C. (2003). Integrating behavioral theory to understand hepatitis B vaccination among MSM. American Journal of Health Behavior, 27(4), 291–300. Crossref MedlineGoogle Scholar
  • Rhodes , S. D., & Hergenrather, K. C. (2002). Exploring hepatitis B vaccination acceptance among young men who have sex with men: Facilitators and barriers. Preventive Medicine, 35(2), 128–134. Crossref MedlineGoogle Scholar
  • Rietmeijer , C. A., Bull, S. S., McFarlane, M., Patnaik, J. L., & Douglas, J. M., Jr. (2003). Risks and benefits of the internet for populations at risk for sexually transmitted infections (STIs): Results of an STI clinic survey. Sexually Transmitted Diseases, 30(1), 15–19. Crossref MedlineGoogle Scholar
  • Ross , M. W., Tikkanen, R., & Mansson, S. A. (2000). Differences between Internet samples and conventional samples of men who have sex with men: Implications for research and HIV interventions. Social Science and Medicine, 51(5), 749–758. Crossref MedlineGoogle Scholar
  • Rosser, B. R. S., Miner, M. H., Gurak, L., Bockting, W. O., Merino-Espinoza, C., Edwards, W. O., et al. (2002, July). Researching Internet-mediated sex between men: The Men's Internet Study (Abstract TuPeF5289). Paper presented at the XIV International AIDS Conference, Barcelona, Spain. Google Scholar
  • Seeley , S. (2002). CAMP Safe: Launches Internet based prevention program. Letters from CAMP Rehoboth, 12(1). Google Scholar
  • Sorensen , A. A. (2001). Promoting public health through electronic media: A challenge for schools of public health. American Journal of Public Health, 91(8), 1183–1185. Crossref MedlineGoogle Scholar
  • Turner, W. (2001). ACT UP slams chat room based surveillance as “dubious use of taxpayer dollars.” Retrieved February 28, 2003, from Google Scholar
  • Waskul , D., Douglass, M., & Edgley, C. (2000). Cybersex: Outercourse and the enselfment of the body. Symbolic Interaction, 23(4), 375–397. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
  • Weinrich , J. D. (1997). Strange bedfellows: Homosexuality, gay liberation, and the Internet. Journal of Sex Education and Therapy, 22, 58–66. CrossrefGoogle Scholar