A new national online survey aims to find the gay men that other surveys cannot reach. Previous periodic surveys into gay men’s sexual behaviour by the National Centre in HIV Social Research (NCHSR) have been invaluable in framing the response to the HIV epidemic, but they have their limits.

This has led to some criticisms. For example, the surveys consistently show men over 35 as taking more risks, whereas anecdotal evidence hints at a rise in unsafe sex among younger men.

Dr Martin Holt of NCHSR said their new online survey -“ called e-male -“ would show if such a pattern was emerging. Online surveys draw more responses from younger men while face-to-face research tends to recruit older men, he said.

Our feeling at the moment is that men in their 30s will still be the risk takers. Usually we find that younger men are more careful, Dr Holt said.

[But] younger guys we know increasingly have more diverse social lives so the internet is a good way to attract them.

Dr Holt also hopes to reach other groups not usually captured by traditional methods: bisexual men, men who have sex with men but don’t identify as gay, and men living in rural and regional areas.

We’re hoping we’ll get the same guys we normally get plus the ones we missed, he said.

He’s also hoping to find out whether men who use the internet to meet each other are more likely to have unsafe sex, as suggested by surveys in the US and UK.

All the major HIV bodies and health departments across Australia are supporting e-male.

The survey, which will run for two months, is online at www.e-male.com.au/site.

From bnews -“ www.bnews.com.au

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