STUDY: Nearly 50% Of Gay Men Using Hook-Up Apps Engage In Unprotected Sex

Rainbow-condom-packageA new study by New York’s non-profit Community Healthcare Network of gay and bisexual men who utilized social apps such as Grindr, Scruff, Manhunt and Growlr found that nearly 50% admitted to barebacking.

Dr. Freddy Molano, Assistant Vice President of HIV Programs and Services at CHN, and Renato Barucco, CHN’s Transgender Program Manager, surveyed 725 participants on four main areas: perspectives on HIV/AIDS; perspectives on unprotected anal intercourse; HIV/AIDS knowledge; and, in an optional section, the reasons behind risk-taking behaviors during intercourse.

According to the study, the 47% of respondents who admitted to risk-taking activities such as unprotected anal intercourse were knowledgeable about HIV/AIDS and were afraid of getting infected or re-infected with the virus.

“The survey findings show a clear disconnect between the reasons why men engage in unprotected anal intercourse and the way prevention initiatives attempt to address risk behaviors,” said Barucco.

As for their reasons for engaging in unprotected sex, 84.6% of respondents claimed “with condoms it does not feel the same,” while 73.8 % cited “impulsive sexual behaviors.”

Other findings of Zero Feet Away: Perspective on HIV/AIDS and Unprotected Sex in Men Who Have Sex with Men Utilizing Location-based Mobile Apps include:

  •  Respondents were sufficiently knowledgeable about HIV/AIDS. 80.9 percent of respondents knew that HIV is transmitted through “unprotected anal sex, vaginal sex, and – less frequently – oral sex.”
  • A majority of respondents (68.1 percent) were afraid to be infected or re-infected, believe people should be more concerned about the epidemic, and view it overall as a serious issue.
  • A majority felt that AIDS is a “somewhat serious” problem for people they know (52.5 percent), while 29.4 percent considered it to be a serious problem.
  • The vast majority of respondents considered barebacking (defined as unprotected anal sex) dangerous and believed barebackers are informed of the risk.
  • Yet, almost half of respondents (46.4 percent) admitted to barebacking always, often, or sometimes versus 53.6 percent who reportedly never engage in unprotected anal intercourse.

“Clearly, we’ve come a long way in educating people about HIV and AIDS,” said Dr. Molano, “yet among certain populations, HIV and AIDS is on the rise, and that’s alarming. We conducted this study as a result of a seeming correlation between an increasing use of mobile social networking apps designed for men to meet each other and an increase in HIV infections among [men who have sex with men] MSM.”

In addition to traditional prevention programs and initiatives, such as HIV education and distributing condoms, the study’s authors believe new methods, including treatment as prevention (pre-exposure prophylaxis), are needed.

“We must address the complicated psychological, emotional, and behavioral variables that come into play during sexual encounters and that predispose target population to barebacking,” Barucco added. “Otherwise, the number of new infections among young gay and bisexual men will likely continue to rise.”

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  • Dionte

    Guess I’ll just sashay into my seventh year of abstinence.

  • QJ201

    Another study on our sex lives that discusses things in broad strokes.

    no were do they make it clear in anyway WHO people barebacked with. So if you are going to include dating partners or even fuck buddies…I call bullshit.

    Now if the study said “half of gay men bareback with someone they first met and didn’t discuss HIV status” THAT would be a huge cause for concern.

    But the “OTHER” studies out there and there are many…point to TWO things to be concerned about…

    1) Your new boyfriend, may not be negative or may even be lying about his status…go get tested together…many studies are now finding that young gay men are getting infected in dating relationships


    2) The obvious one…guys on G, coke, crystal who like to “party and play” are MUCH less likely to use condoms

    and thought of one more

    3) Neg guys are more likely to bareback as a top and poz guys as a bottom…lessening risk of transmission.

    So more garbage science.

  • redcarpet

    I don’t like how this is worded. It makes it like its the spooky dangerous new APP that is making this happen. Barebacking rates were rising long before Grindr and Growlr came along. Some of its drugs, some of its ignorance, and some of it is guys who know the risk and say fuck it.

    It’s the last one we need to be looking at. It sounds like the idea of “condom fatigue” is manifesting itself. Rather than look at it as a collective moral failing to be shamed, maybe we should look at it as a chance to implement a more realistic and pragmatic approach to harm reduction (not that condoms shouldn’t be apart of that, don’t go twisting my words).

  • WayDifferent

    And what is the percentage for guys who hook up after the bar? 54.8%?
    Craigslist? 63%?
    Guys who hook up in the bushes at the lakefront? 78%?
    Guys who frequent Chicago’s bath houses? 94%?

    Oh, wait, wait……if it doesn’t involve anal “it’s not really sex”.

  • Fidelio

    @QJ201: I can’t necessarily call bullshit on their findings – yet. But kudos for understanding that there are tops out there thinking they are impervious to HIV (your scenario #3.) That’s me. Double bullshit, I know. I kinda get turned off if a guy wants to use a condom. I’ll allow it, but 1/2 the time it just ends up in frustration. The reality is it happens and it shouldn’t. And until we find a method of instantly testing (within minutes) for HIV in the bedroom or an outright cure, we have to learn to wrap it up, regardless how/where we hook up (ahem, Jack’d). This is especially important for the younger generation, whose HIV rates in that segment are rising.

  • LeNair Xavier

    I don’t think these social apps have anything to do with it. I have said repeatedly that unprotected sex is NATURAL. If not for unprotected sex not you, I, or any of us would be here. However, I do also repeatedly add to that by saying that because of the presence of various STDs that we must consider going against that nature. That means we must exhibit a nurtured behavior. But since NATURE outdoes NURTURED, we are seeing more bareback sex accepted. Especially since people are craving intimacy when they have sex. I’m not saying it’s right, but for many, a condom gets in the way of the desired intimacy.
    With all that said, it is really a waste of time trying to look for excuses as to why barebacking seems to be on the rise. And passing the buck onto social apps helps no one.

  • GayTampaCowboy

    So, it’s now it’s Mobile Apps that are to blame for barebacking and hiv infections? Oh, i see, just like it’s violent movies, cable TV and video games that are the cause of mass shootings like Newtown?

    REALLY? Have we gotten SO lost on reality that we can’t see the Forrest to the Trees when it comes to human sexual behavior? Under the influence of hormones – mixed with drugs and/or booze can cause even the smartest human to make a stupid decision in the bedroom. But there is NO WAY IN GOD’S GREEN EARTH that gay/bi men are mentally manipulated into engaging in unsafe sex due to a mobile computer app!

    Hedonistic sex has been around since the dawn of time. As a society, we have norms (that do change, yes) that influence behaviors, but to me, this Mobile App argument is a RED HERRING!

    If they outlawed the apps today, does ANYONE think that there would be a dramatic drop in unsafe sex practices among ALL orientations? Of course not. So PLEASE, can we let this stupid argument pass and let’s get back to our focus on communication and education about safer sex – and then leave it to the individual to make informed decisions.

  • Pete

    @QJ201: No, it’s not garbage science. This study targeted men using hook-up apps, which sorta implies, pardon the pun, one-shot, squirt & scram encounters. Not boyfriends, dates, or even fuck-buddies. My own very brief experience on grindr was enough to convince me that way more than 50% of the guys on it were reckless. Us younger guys, who have no living memory of the Plague, are also more likely to hook-up using apps. These findings are not surprising and very scary!

  • John Doe

    It is quite possible that this survey was performed via the APPS, although I have no idea. A possibility anyway. So, this survey would not be comparing condom use to “hooking up” via clubs, Manhunt online, etc.

    That being said, those using these APPS are not using these APPS to “hook-up” with fuck-buddies, friends, dates, boyfriends, etc. They don’t need an APP for that. Duh. These are casual hook-ups with anonymous people. Just like with Manhunt (prior to APPS), these were essentially anonymous encounters for the most part. Not entirely, but mostly.

    Also, “hooking up” with someone is MUCH easier today than it was 5 years ago… and certainly 25 years ago. Now you can find someone within X number of feet while you are mobile. You don’t have to be at home on your computer… searching through pages of Manhunt. That was 5 years ago. Today you can find guys anywhere you go. And 25 years ago you couldn’t do either. You had to get up, go to some club, bar or bathroom.

    APPS certainly make hooking up much easier than 5 years ago or 25 years ago. I think that surveys like this can be misunderstood – but also have value. There is no reason be be defensive about a survey like this. It asked people specific questions and we got the answers.

  • Joetx

    Sad to see so many gay men acting extremely stupidly.

    Sad to see some defending them.

  • Wilberforce

    @Joetx: Get used to it. Mainstream queers have been self-destructive from day one of the epidemic. And they’ve been making excuses and changing the subject throughout.
    As it turns out, internalized homophobia has serious staying power. It’s been a main fixture of the ghetto crowd for as long as I’ve been watching, and it is not going anywhere.

  • ncwillia

    I believe the key piece of information here is that there is a “clear disconnect between the reasons why” respondents engaged in this unsafe behavior and the fact that information about the threat of STIs, some of which are essentially fatal, like HIV/AIDS. It is undeniable that generations of gay, bisexual, curious and otherwise MSM (men who have sex with men) Americans have been peppered with information about the risks of HIV/AIDS in school and in the media. Thirty years ago, when thousands upon thousands of gay men were dying at a hopelessly frantic rate, and when this technology did not exist, this sort of behavior would be unheard of, or at the very least, a death sentence. One could argue that the existence of gay bars and other social/cruising venues were the mobile hook-up apps of that time. However, the historical trajectory of a culture of reckless and unsafe sexual behavior, and the consequences that followed, should be deterrent enough.

    In fact, one does not have to look very far back to realize that HIV/AIDS is still a very real and very deadly threat. The CDC reports that in 2010, the most affected subpopulations for new HIV infections were (in descending order) “White MSM,” “Black MSM” and “Latino/Hispanic MSM” ( In all, just among MSM (again, “men who have sex with men”) that’s an estimated 28,500 in one calendar year. That’s 2,375 a month. Or almost 594 a week. Or almost 80 per day. Get the idea? Some of these measures compare anywhere from seven times to more than thirteen times more than other subpopulations such as women of ethnic minority backgrounds and intravenous drug users.

    This information is readily available and impossible to ignore. So is the proliferation of hook-up and dating apps available on mobile devices and computers. The “disconnect” here is both on an individual level and an industry level. Companies marketing apps like this have an ethical responsibility to 1) acknowledge and 2) respond to these saddening and shocking infection rates. The most successful and celebrated of these companies is Grindr—a beacon of sexual mobility, discretion and anonymity. Grindr’s mission statement: “Being 0 feet away is our mission for you” ( At the moment, their mission is leading to “0 feet away,” but ultimately six feet under. Profits are not greater than personal health. This sexual culture must become safer, and these companies must be more responsible and aware, unless the LGBT community and the country at large want to face another senseless epidemic.

  • jamal49

    @Dionte: Mind if I tag along?

  • Aaron

    Hook up apps give people a sense of false confidence – many many many of these profiles include the date last tested. People sort by “negative” and then read in the profile “last tested 12/3/12” and they think they are being “safe” by choosing this partner over another one with more ambiguous information. Also, you message back and forth “Are you negative?” “Yes” “Okay!” – again, false sense of security. At the point when the two men meet in the flesh 30 minutes later, they feel like they’ve done their homework and can bb away.

  • Tommysole

    I put down that I am h.i.v. positive and guys still want to BB with me, they figure since they top only that they will be safe.
    One guy that wanted to bone me said he was positive and I later found pout he wasn’t. He just wanted to bareback me.

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