International research has produced conflicting evidence regarding the question of whether sexual contacts arranged via the internet present greater risks of HIV and STI than contacts with partners from other social contexts. To provide more information on the situation in Germany the Research Group on Public Health at the Social Science Research Center Berlin (WZB) has initiated a study regarding the perception and management of HIV risk on the part of men and women who meet sexual partners by way of internet dating. This survey includes heterosexual men and women as well as gay men. A central focus of the study is to examine whether internet daters apply specific strategies to minimize HIV risks and, if so, to describe these strategies in more detail. Further, the content and form of communication on HIV status and safer sex will be compared regarding the context in which sexual partners meet (e.g. on the internet vs. parties, clubs, bars etc.).

HIV prevention has been a focus of the Research Group on Public Health for over twenty years. The current internet based study follows on a research project conducted in 2003 and commissioned by the Federal Centre for Health Education (BZgA): “Changes in Risk Reduction and HIV Infection among Homosexual Men”. This was the first national study in the field of AIDS research in Germany using an online survey.

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In a survey commissioned by the Deutsche AIDS-Hilfe in 1987 and 1988 Michael Bochow and Stefanie Grote, using leading monthly magazines, interviewed gay men on their personal perception and management of AIDS prevention. In the following years they have conducted several follow-up surveys funded by the Federal Centre for Health Education (Bundeszentrale für gesundheitliche Aufklärung, BZgA) (see above).

For more information (in German only) please see below (Downloads)