Misrepresentation on the internet and in real life about sex and HIV: A study of Latino men who have sex with men

Michael W. Ross, B. R. Simon Rosser, Eli Coleman, Rafael Mazin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Experiences of men who have internet sex with men were studied to determine the level of misrepresentation in real life and on the Internet of physical, relationship, sexual interests, and HIV status. An internet-based questionnaire in English and Spanish ($20 compensation) recruited 1,026 Latino MISM over 3 weeks. Four 'fib' scales were created to measure misrepresentation by the respondent and to the respondent on the Internet and IRL. Overall, respondents rated being misrepresented to on the Internet significantly highest, followed by being misrepresented to IRL and misrepresenting themselves to others on the Internet, and misrepresenting themselves to others IRL lowest. For HIV status there were no differences between Internet and IRL misrepresentation by others and Internet and IRL misrepresentation by self, but a significant difference between HIV status misrepresentation by self and others. Misrepresenters were more likely to have had cybersex before meeting their last partner and to prefer cybersex, to be more sexually compulsive, and to speak and think more in Spanish. Social desirability considerations account for the higher misrepresentation on physical characteristics and sexual interests by others, and higher misrepresentation on the Internet. However, misrepresentation of HIV status was the lowest category and while it was misrepresented more often by others than self, there were no internet/IRL differences. Data suggest that HIV misrepresentation occurred for 20% of men and was lower than other forms of misrepresentation. Implications for HIV prevention are discussed, along with the concept of levels of accuracy in internet communications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)133-144
Number of pages12
JournalCulture, Health and Sexuality
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2006


  • Internet
  • Latino men
  • Misrepresentation


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