Background: Men who have sex with men (MSM) are disproportionately affected by human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and there is evidence that this population is participating in increasingly risky sexual behavior. These changes are occurring in the context of new modes of online social interaction-many MSM now report first meeting their sex partners on the Internet. Better monitoring of key behavioral indicators among MSM requires the use of surveillance strategies that capitalize on these new modes of interaction. Therefore, we developed an annual cross-sectional behavioral survey of MSM in the United States, the American Men's Internet Survey (AMIS).
Objective: The purpose of this paper was to provide a description of AMIS methods. In addition we report on the first cycle of data collection (December 2013 through May 2014; AMIS-2013) on the same key indicators used for national HIV behavioral surveillance.
Methods: AMIS-2013 recruited MSM from a variety of websites using banner advertisements or email blasts. Adult men currently residing in the United States were eligible to participate if they had ever had sex with a man. We examined demographic and recruitment characteristics using multivariable regression modeling (P<.05) stratified by the participants' self-reported HIV status.
Results: In the AMIS-2013 round, 79,635 persons landed on the study page and 14,899 were eligible, resulting in 10,377 completed surveys from MSM representing every US state. Participants were mainly white, 40 years or older, living in the US South, living in urban areas, and recruited from a general social networking website. Self-reported HIV prevalence was 10.73% (n=1113). Compared to HIV-negative/unknown status participants, HIV-positive participants were more likely to have had anal sex without a condom with any male partner in the past 12 months (72.24% versus 61.24%, respectively; P<.001) and more likely to have had anal sex without a condom with their last male sex partner who was discordant/unknown HIV status (42.95% versus 13.62%, respectively; P<.001). Illicit substance use in the past 12 months was more likely to be reported by HIV-positive participants than HIV-negative/unknown status participants (39.17% versus 26.85%, respectively; P<.001). The vast majority of HIV-negative/unknown status participants (84.05%) had been previously HIV tested, but less than half (44.20%) had been tested in the past 12 months. Participants 18-24 years of age were more likely than those 40 years or older to have had anal sex without a condom with a discordant/unknown HIV status partner, were more likely to report substance use, and were less likely to have been HIV tested. Compared to general social networking, those from a geospatial social networking website were more likely to have reported all risk behaviors but were more likely to have been HIV tested.
Conclusions: The first round of AMIS generated useful behavioral measures from more than 10,000 MSM Internet users. Preliminary findings identified some subgroups of MSM Internet users that are at potentially higher risk of HIV acquisition/transmission. AMIS will provide an ongoing data source for examining trends in sexual risk behavior of MSM. This will help to plan and monitor the impact of programs to improve this population's health.
Keywords: HIV; Internet; MSM; STD; bisexual; gay; homosexual; surveillance; survey.