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Unsafe sex linked to gay chat rooms

©Associated Press
February 12, 2003

BOSTON -- Chat rooms on gay Web sites are becoming a common place for arranging risky sexual encounters, a survey found, as experts worry about a possible upswing in HIV infections.

Research released Tuesday suggests that for some, the Internet serves the same hazardous purpose as gay bathhouses did in the early 1980s, when the AIDS virus first spread rampantly among homosexual men.

"The Internet is a new venue associated with high-risk sex," said Sabina Hirshfield. "It is a quick and easy way to meet partners."

A variety of new data raise concern that AIDS may once again be increasing.

The report by Hirshfield and colleagues from the Medical and Health Research Association of New York City was based on online surveys filled out by nearly 3,000 men using the Web site gay.com.

In the survey, 84 percent said they met sex partners online, and about two-thirds had recently had anal sex without condoms.

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