Introduction Increasing new cases of HIV among Men who have Sex with Men (MSM) has been observed in Puerto Rico (PR). According to the HIV Surveillance System, 23% of the HIV/AIDS cases are among MSM. Adoption and proliferation of digital platforms have become a new venue for MSM to meet new sexual partners. Researchers have studied these new venues without getting any consensus if the use of social apps are a protective or risk factor for HIV infection. This study aims to understand the use of social apps among young MSM (18–24 years), practices with those who they met online and perceived risk of infection.
Methods Data collected from the needs assessment of the Youth Prevention Program between March and September 2016, was used. A convenience sampling of 183 MSM were recruited in the Western region of PR. Descriptive analysis was used to portray selected characteristics and use of social apps.
Results More than half (80%) of the participants reported the use of any social apps for meeting sexual partners in their lifetime. Among those who use apps, 65% reported was for hook-up. The average number of lifetime sexual partners met by these apps were 5.7±4.7 partners. Inconsistent condom use was reported among 40%, which indicated have not used condom while having sex with partners they met online. The most common app used was Grindr (66%), followed by Facebook (55%). When asked their perceived risk of HIV, only 16% reported they considered to be at high risk of contracting with HIV when meet their sexual partners online. Of further note, 24% sent photos of their bare buttock, 31% of their penis and 48% display their chests.
Conclusion The study intends in the future to demonstrate if there is any association from using these social apps and HIV infection. This preliminary analysis showed that apps are becoming a frequent to meet sexual partners but they don’t consider these apps as risk venues for contracting HIV. This study will help strengthen prevention programs and prevention initiatives for high risk populations in the island.