To describe the risk behaviours of visitors to gay websites and to explore the role of the internet in the HIV transmission among the Chinese men who have sex with men (MSM).
Between May and August 2006, visitors of three Chinese gay websites were invited to complete an online questionnaire about the use of the internet and risk sexual behaviours.
The median age of the online sample was 25 years old (range 18 to 64). Over three‐quarters (77.6%) had an education of college or higher. Less than 44% of the online sample reported little or no risk for HIV transmission. These men had either had no anal intercourse (28.0%) or had always used a condom for anal intercourse (15.8%). Although only about half of the participants reported that their main purpose of visiting the gay websites was to look for sexual partners, most participants (86.1%) had used the internet to seek partners. Compared with men seeking sexual partners only on the internet, men seeking partners both in traditional gay venues and on the internet were older, less likely to be students and more likely to have unprotected anal intercourse, more than six sexual partners in the past 6 months and commercial sex behaviours.
The users of the gay websites are relatively young and well educated, and highly vulnerable to HIV/AIDS, given their low prevalence of consistent condom use and multiple‐risk sexual behaviours. Effective intervention programmes should be implemented and strengthened in China, especially for those who seek sexual partners both on the internet and in traditional gay venues.