The Internet as a Valuable Tool for Promoting a New Framework for Sexual Health among Gay Men and Other Men Who Have Sex with Men, Joshua G. Rosenberger et. al., AIDS Behav. (2011)

Research and Journal Articles

While most health agencies that focus on HIV prevention ignore other aspects of MSM sexuality, this paper argues that a holistic framework for promoting sexual health among MSM will be more effective in preventing HIV and STDs and will better address the sexual health issues that specifically affect MSM. To do this, the authors argue that health agencies should focus on a sexual health framework that reaches out to MSM via the internet.

A sexual health framework that will improve MSM well-being and reduce the incidence of HIV should entail three fundamental elements. The first element "involves using an assets-based approach to research and programs that focus on resilience in the individual and the community." This is in response to studies which indicate a connection between lower rate of risk behaviors when combined with individual and community assets. The second element requires the any discussion of sexual health address the full range of factors related to the sexual experience. The final element requires embracing sexual diversity among MSM and working to reduce the stigma against them.

Just as important as the messages in this new framework is the means by which it reaches MSM. While most traditional health intervention programs primarily attempted outreach with face-to-face contact in areas where MSM go to find a sexual partners or social support, such as gay neighborhoods, cruising spaces, or bars, a contemporary sexual health program needs to utilize the internet as a primary outreach tool. Not only are MSM community sites among the most popular social networking sites in the United States, but a recent survey reports that gay men are more likely to use online social networks and read blogs than heterosexual men.

The internet is becoming widely recognized as one of the best ways to disseminate information regarding STDs and HIV. In 2008, the National Coalition of STD directors released a guideline aimed at replicating face-to-face sexual health interventions on the internet. More recently, the National Institutes of Health released its first set of grants for "identifying effective Internet-based HIV and STI intervention and prevention for MSM." Collaborations with popular MSM websites and a focus on a comprehensive sexual health care framework should help the promotion of overall sexual health and reduce the risk of STDs and HIV among MSM.