176373 Internet's Role in the Sexual Health of Gay/Bisexual/Questioning Adolescents

Wednesday, October 29, 2008: 11:06 AM

Pedro Alonso Serrano , Department of Psychology, DePaul University, Chicago, IL
Gary W. Harper, PhD, MPH , Department of Psychology, DePaul University, Chicago, IL
M. Isabel Fernandez, PhD , College of Osteopathic Medicine, Nova Southeastern University-COM, Fort Lauderdale-Davie, FL
Background: Prior research has found that increasing numbers of gay/bisexual adults and adolescents are meeting sexual partners over the Internet, and that these encounters often involve increased sexual risk. Less research has focused on the sexual health promoting potential of the Internet, especially among gay/bisexual/questioning (GBQ-MA) male adolescents. The purpose of this study was to examine how GBQ-MA are using the Internet to explore their sexuality. Methods: Data are from qualitative interviews with GBQ-MA. Participants were recruited in Chicago and Miami from community agencies and social venues. A purposive sample of GBQ-MA stratified on ethnicity, age, and sexual identity were selected to participate in the interviews. Participants (N=63) ranged in age from 15 to 23 years, and identified as African American (N=19), Latino/Hispanic (n=22), or White (N=22). Results: Thematic analyses revealed that GBQ-MA use various forms of Internet-related resources (websites, chat rooms, blogs, etc.) to assist them in a) developing their sexual identity, b) becoming socially connected to other GBQ-MA, c) meeting romantic and sexual partners, d) learning about safer sex practices, and e) learning about HIV/AIDS/STI transmission and symptoms. Conclusions: The Internet can serve a range of sexual health promoting functions for GBQ-MA. Given the anonymity of the Internet, some youth may feel more comfortable exploring their sexuality and learning about sexual health issues through this modality. The Internet also affords the opportunity for public health professionals to offer sexual health interventions to a wider range of GBQ-MA who reside in different geographic regions.

Learning Objectives:
1. List various forms of Internet-related resources that gay, bisexual, and questioning (GBQ) youth access. 2. Discuss how the Internet assists GBQ youth in their development. 3. Recognize the opportunity the Internet offers public health professionals who wish to reach a wider range of GBQ youth.

Keywords: Youth, Internet

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have been involved with the data analysis and writing of this abstract.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.