The US-based gay dating site manhunt.net has hit upon a novel way of promoting safe sex among gay men.

An outreach worker, posing under the sign-in name of VIPBoy, is paid to talk about AIDS and STDs to site users and to give out advice about safe sex practices.

“If gay men are going to meet in cyberspace for hookups, they should know what they are getting into if they have unsafe sex,” Stephan Adelson, who heads Online Buddies Inc. and runs the 700,000-member site, told The Boston Herald .

Mr Adelson has been praised for his socially-aware stance, in contrast to many other sites which actively promote unsafe practices such as ‘bare backing’ by creating dedicated chat areas.

Among other innovations at manhunt.net are AIDS counselling. The site recruits men for HIV-drug studies and surveys and has a unique system whereby HIV-positive members can contact other members they may have infected while remaining anonymous.