Online Health-Searching Behavior Among HIV-Seropositive and HIV-Seronegative Men Who Have Sex With Men in the Baltimore and Washington, DC Area

Published: May 3, 2013


Background: Searching online for health information is common among American adults. However, there have been few studies to investigate the online health-searching behaviors among men who have sex with men (MSM) with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

Objective: To estimate the prevalence of Internet use among HIV-seropositive MSM and compare their online behaviors with HIV-seronegative men with chronic disease(s).

Methods: This study was performed at the Baltimore/Washington, DC site of the Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study (MACS). A total of 200 MACS participants were asked to answer a self-administered questionnaire on a first-come basis during a semiannual study visit (from July to November 2011); 195 (97.5%) participants completed the survey. Multiple logistic regression models were used to investigate the factors influencing their online health-searching behaviors.
Results: The median age of the 195 MSM participants was 57 years, 64.6% were white, 59.0% were employed, and 88.2% had Internet access at home and/or other locations. Of the 95 HIV-seropositive participants, 89.5% currently used highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) and 82.1% had Internet access. After adjusting for age and race/ethnicity, the HIV-seropositive participants were less likely to perform online searches for general disease-related information compared to the HIV-seronegative men with chronic disease(s) (OR 0.20, 95% CI 0.06-0.68, P=.01). There were no statistically significant associations with HIV status and searching for new medications/treatments (OR 0.55, 95% CI 0.19-1.55, P=.26) or support/advice from other patients (OR 0.52, 95% CI 0.18-1.53, P=.24). Increasing age by 5 years led to a decrease by 29% in the odds of online health-related searches for general information (OR 0.71, 95% CI 0.52-0.98, P=.03) and 26% for support/advice from other patients (OR 0.74, 95% CI 0.56-0.98, P=.03). A decrease of 25% for new medications/treatments was also seen, but was not statistically significant (OR 0.75, 95% CI 0.57-1.01, P=.06).

Conclusions: This study shows that HIV-seropositive MSM have similar online health-searching behaviors as HIV-seronegative men with chronic disease(s). Independent of HIV status, older MSM are less likely to perform online health-related searches.

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