Health officials point to a study that demonstrates that the plethora of social networking sites, which cater to those looking for anonymous sex partners, are a major contributor to the rise of HIV/AIDS cases in the Philippines, according to a Philippines Inquirer Technology report Oct. 19.
During a seminar yesterday, Dr. Eric Tayag, director of the National Epidemiology Center (NEC) told a group of reporters Thursday that online social networking sites are creating new opportunities, particularly for men having sex with men (MSM), to meet sex partners. He also notes that by using online networking sites, MSM can meet without fear of negative social consequences.
Tayag cites a study last year by the Philippines Department of Health:
The study covered 180 MSM respondents. Of the 180 respondents, 124 admitted to using online network sites for dating and sex, while 133 said they had sex with people they contacted through online network sites. Those who engaged in sex were between the age of 14 and 36.
The mode of HIV/AIDS transmission, as well as the profile of infected persons, has changed in recent years from heterosexual intercourse to “men who have sex with men,” Tayag said.
He clarified that men who engage in sex with men were not all homosexuals. “HIV/AIDS is not about being gay but about men having unprotected sex with men,” Tayag said.
Anonymous sexual hookups arranged over the internet are not unique to the Philippines, but is seen in many countries, particularly with MSM.
In reports from Halifax, Nova Scotia yesterday and in Christchurch, New Zealand last month, health officials link online connections and the casual sex associated with it to spikes in other sexually transmitted infections like syphilis, again, particularly among MSM.
In March 2010, Professor Peter Kelly, Executive Director of Public Health for NHS Middlesbrough addressed this same issue in the UK when they saw a surge in sexually transmitted infections. Kelly pointed out that social networking sites are making it easier for people to meet up for casual sex and other risky behaviors.
While most nations have either seen a decline or stabilization in the number of HIV cases, the Philippines is one of seven countries globally that is seeing their HIV incidence rate increase by more than 25%.