One in five men seeking men on the internet have not had an HIV test since their last episode of unprotected casual sex, figures from a New Zealand survey revealed this week.

Results of the New Zealand AIDS Foundation’s Gay Men’s Online Sex Survey and the Gay Auckland Periodic Sex Survey have raised further concerns about levels of HIV knowledge among men seeking sex online.

The surveys found gay and bisexual men recruited over the internet demonstrated poorer knowledge about HIV, had more problematic attitudes to HIV and condoms, had more unprotected anal sex and lower rates of testing than men recruited elsewhere.

In contrast less than 10 percent of gay and bisexual men recruited at venues and events had gone without an HIV test since their last episode of unprotected casual sex.

ACON’s director of community health Nick Corrigan suggested the lower rate was possibly because men who attended gay events and did not seek sex online were likely to have fewer sexual partners.

If you have sex with hundreds of partners in a six or 12-month period, and you only get tested twice a year, then you’re more likely to have not been tested since [your last episode of unprotected casual sex].

Men recruited for the survey in gay venues were also more likely to be knowledgeable of HIV issues and risks.

According to Corrigan, online users were noticing banner campaigns placed on websites for men seeking sex, with the Why Test campaign particularly successful in attracting attention.

Senior researcher from the New Zealand AIDS Foundation Peter Saxton said the survey results could translate to a huge risk for men seeking sex online.

This is quite startling, he said. It poses a high risk of undiagnosed HIV infection occurring among men who seek sex online, and the sexual networks attached to them. Picture it -“ every fifth profile you see online could have had casual unprotected sex and not tested since.

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