Ontario online outreach survey


Ontario study shows online outreach services beneficial for gay, bi, two-spirit and other MSM

Between December 2013 and January 2014, men who use the internet to seek sex with other men were recruited from sexual networking websites, mobile apps and AIDS service organizations in Ontario to complete an anonymous survey online. The survey was developed to assess if gay, bi, two-spirit and other men who have sex with men (MSM) use online outreach services, and their experiences if so. The Ontario-based study1 found that a minority of men have used online outreach (8%), but most of these report a positive change to their HIV and other sexually transmitted infection (STI) prevention and testing behaviour after engaging with online outreach services.

Online outreach services have a positive impact on behaviour change and decision-making

Study respondents reported a number of behaviour changes after their last online outreach encounter:

  • 34% reported getting tested for HIV
  • 29% reported getting tested for STIs
  • 33% reported using condoms more frequently
  • 24% reported using condoms more effectively

Study respondents reported that sexual decision-making was affected by their last online outreach encounter:

  • 25% reported only having sex with partners whose HIV status they knew
  • 18% reported only having sex with sero-concordant partners (partners of the same HIV status as themselves)
  • 5% reported only having sex with HIV-positive partners whose viral load they knew

Online outreach services reach traditionally underserved populations

Critically, the study showed that online outreach was reaching populations of queer men including HIV-positive men, Indigenous and two-spirit men, men from rural areas, and men from disadvantaged socio-economic classes that have often been under-served by health and community services. For example, two-spirit men were three times more likely to have had an online outreach encounter than non-two-spirit men.

Users have positive experience with online outreach services

Study respondents reported positive experiences with online outreach encounters:

  • 87% reported the individual providing the outreach used language they could understand
  • 84% reported they would use the service again
  • 82% reported the individual providing the outreach was helpful
  • 80% reported being comfortable with the interaction
  • 69% reported that the individual providing outreach was knowledgeable
  • 50% reported being provided with a useful referral

What does this mean for Canadian organizations?

We know that gay, bisexual, two-spirit and other MSM are disproportionately affected by HIV in Canada. They are 131 times more likely to get HIV than men who do not have sex with men.2 We also know that MSM are increasingly using modern communication technologies such as cell phones and the Internet to meet other guys, find sex, and seek sexual-health information.3 This transition creates a new way to effectively interact with gay, bisexual, two-spirit and other MSM through outreach services online.

The Ontario-based study found that MSM find online outreach services beneficial, and importantly the data show that online outreach services are connecting with men who may be underserved using other means, including men living with HIV and Indigenous men. However, about one third (32%) reported that they had never used the services because they either did not know about them or know where to find them, suggesting that organizations that provide online outreach may want to consider increasing the promotion of the service.


  1. Brennan DJ, Lachowsky NJ, Georgievski G, et al. Online Outreach Services Among Men Who Use the Internet to Seek Sex With Other Men (MISM) in Ontario, Canada: An Online Survey. Journal of Medical Internet Research. 2015;17(12):e277.
  2. Yang Q, Ogunnaike-Cooke S, Halverson J, et al. Estimated national HIV incidence rates among key sub-populations in Canada, 2014. Presented at 25th Annual Canadian Conference on HIV/AIDS Research (CAHR), 12–15 May 2016, Winnipeg, Canada. Abstract EPH3.5.
  3. Community-Based Research Centre for Gay Men’s Health. Pride, Prejudice, & Determinants of Health: What’s trending with young gay men?. Community-Based Research Centre for Gay Men’s Health; 2013. Available from: http://cbrc.net/sites/cbrc.net/files/PPDYouthF%20-AC.pdf [accessed 19 Feb 2016]