Mitigating the Influence of Cyber Chatting on Sexual Risk Behaviour

Past project

This project will conduct an online evaluation to assess the Chat Smart intervention package; developed to promote a range of self-regulation strategies among younger men who meet partners online.

The dynamics of online dating can promote sexual risk-taking among HIV-negative gay men. Of particular importance in terms of subsequent risk-taking are the information posted on dating profiles, the extent of online fantasising about condomless sex, and whether chat partners clarify/confirm condom use before meeting face-to-face. An intervention study has been undertaken by a team from the Centre for Social Research in Health and the Australian Federation of Aids Organisation (AFAO), to encourage young gay men to be clear about their intention to use condoms on their dating profile, to avoid online fantasising with potential sex partners about condomless sex, and to clarify/confirm condom use before meeting partners face-to-face.

A first study was conducted to assess the acceptability of the intervention framework in a sample of 153 gay men aged 18-29 years and recruited on Facebook. Participants were exposed to non-prescriptive self-regulation messages embedded in personal constructed narratives of young gay men. A second study was conducted to assess the effect of the intervention in a separate sample of 100 gay men aged 18-29 years, also recruited on Facebook. Participants were randomly allocated to either the self-regulation intervention or a control condition. After exposure, participants reported on their intentions to adopt a range of self-regulation behaviours and intention scores were compared between the two arms.

Most participants in the first study perceived the intervention as relevant and acceptable but some participants were concerned that they could lose sex opportunities. To overcome this possibility, the content of the intervention was revised before being tested for efficacy. In the second study, participants exposed to the intervention had a higher intention to make clear on their profile that they wanted to use condoms than participants in the control group. Exposed participants also had a marginally higher intention to clarify/confirm condom use with partners before meeting face-to-face. Considering the limited number of participants enrolled, these findings are very encouraging. The intervention was found to be acceptable and effective in motivating participants to adopt two self-regulation behaviours that protect from unintended risk with partners met online. The proposed framework could inform the development of larger-scale campaigns for HIV negative men who have sex with men who meet their partners online.

Funding Agency

Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations

Australian Government Department of Health

Publications

Two experimental studies to assess a self-regulation intervention to reduce the risk of HIV transmission among gay men who meet their partners online. Sydney: National Centre in HIV Social Research, The University of New South Wales.

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