One in five of all men seeking men for sex on the internet have not had an HIV test since their last episode of unprotected casual sex.

This is just one of many findings discussed in newly published data from the 2006 Gay Auckland Periodic Sex Survey (GAPSS) and Gay men’s Online Sex Survey (GOSS).

Together the surveys spoke to over 3,000 gay and bisexual men in New Zealand.

“This is quite startling,” says study investigator Pete Saxton.

“It poses a high risk of undiagnosed HIV infection occurring among men who seek sex online, and the sexual networks attached to them.

“Every fifth profile you see online could have had casual unprotected sex and not tested since.”

The results of both studies have highlighted some significant differences between men recruited online and those recruited at gay venues and events.

Less than 10% of all men recruited offline reported not testing for HIV since their last episode of unprotected casual sex.

While basic knowledge of HIV was high in the GAPSS sample, around one in seven men did not know for sure that oral sex is low risk for HIV transmission.

One in six men did not know that HIV couldn’t pass through an undamaged latex condom.

“It’s vital that gay and bisexual men are confident about what’s safe for HIV and what isn’t,” Saxton comments.

“It means you can relax and enjoy sex, so long as you do a few basic things.”

What’s not basic is the range of sexual relationships gay and bisexual men are entering into over a relatively short space of time.

The GAPSS and GOSS results have also highlighted a complex pattern of sexual partnering among respondents, with boyfriends, fuckbuddies, casual sex, serial and overlapping relationships.

“This raises the issue of how sexually connected each of us is to other gay and bisexual men,” Saxton says.

“Perhaps if we could see that the sexual health of strangers is actually related to our own health and that of our friends, we’d be more inclined to challenge unsafe sex when we see it.”

GAPSS is a joint project carried out once every two years by the Research, Analysis and Information Unit of the New Zealand AIDS Foundation and the Department of Preventive and Social Medicine at the University of Otago, while GOSS was conducted for the first time in 2006.

The full 104-page GAPSS report and the GAPSS/GOSS summary sheet is available online at www.nzaf.org/nz or can be ordered free in hardcopy from the NZAF.

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