The Role of Social Networking Technologies in the Sexual Socialization of Gay Youths in Hong Kong and the Implications for HIV Prevention

Project: Research project

Project Details


Rising HIV rates among men who have sex with men (MSM) in Hong Kong have led to calls for a better understanding of the situation and contributing factors. Of particular concern are local gay youths (ages 18-25), especially those who meet partners online, because studies have suggested that they are more likely to report higher rates of unprotected sex—the behavior most likely to transmit HIV—and less likely to be exposed to existing HIV prevention programs (Tsui & Lau, 2010; PRiSM, 2012). At present, however, we know very little about the factors that may hamper consistent condom use by gay Hong Kong youths and whether the use of social networking technologies has necessarily played a role in their risk behaviors.

Social networking technologies can facilitate high-risk behaviors by offering users a quick and easy means of filtering large numbers of potential partners with similar preferences (Benotsch, Kalichman, & Cage, 2002; McFarlane, Bull, & Rietmeijer, 2002). Gay youths make easy targets for those seeking unprotected sex because their relative inexperience and poor sexual communication skills, including avoiding the topic altogether, puts them at risk when negotiating condom use (Molitor, Facer, & Ruiz, 1999). Furthermore, at their developmental stage, they may not hold pre-determined categorical intentions about condom use and may be ambivalent about or open to unprotected sex if the perceived risk of HIV transmission is low. Recently, the popular emergence of geosocial networking mobile apps (Grindr, Jack’d, Manhunt, etc.) among gay Hong Kong youths has ignited speculation that the use of these apps—which enable users to instantly locate and connect with others nearby—might be fueling HIV risk behaviors (see ‘A deadly dating game’, China Daily, September 2012).

Taken together, there is a pressing need to ascertain the impact of social networking technologies on gay Hong Kong youths’ sexual practices. A clearer understanding of how they use and perceive social networking technologies as well as the potential benefits and risks involved is central to effective intervention efforts with this subgroup during a critical period in their social development.

Using sexual scripting theory, this mixed-methods study will examine whether and how social networking technologies shape the cultural understandings, interpersonal communication, and personal desires of gay Hong Kong youths in relation to sex and relationships. The knowledge gained in this project will be channeled directly into HIV prevention efforts that foster the resilience and well-being of gay Hong Kong youths.
Effective start/end date1/01/1430/06/15

UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This project contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being


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