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'Chemsex' culture upping HIV risk amongst gay males
Chemsex Study:
5.9% of LSL men had ever injected drugs other than steroids or medicines, and 3.5% had done so in the last year. This was only slightly higher than the rest of London but much higher than the rest of England. TABLE 2 shows the proportion of men in each area who used any drug within the last four weeks.......A third of participants had recently injected crystal meth or mephedrone, feeling that it gave them a more intense and immediate high. In nearly all instances injection drug use was safe and there was no evidence of needle-sharing. Those who had no experience of injecting were very uncomfortable with the idea, feeling that it suggested addiction or was a sign of a chaotic lifestyle......Two thirds (69%) of men in LSL who used crystal meth in the last 4 weeks had diagnosed HIV and a similar proportion (64%) of men who injected (non-steroid) drugs in the last 12 months had diagnosed HIV. .....Levels of understanding about HIV (including means of prevention) were high across the sample, but around a third of HIV negative men engaged in UAI under the influence of drugs (either accidentally or with intention, sometimes with casual partners of unknown sero-status).
STIs other than HIV were generally perceived as not as serious (with the exception of Hepatitis C) and not all men with diagnosed HIV took steps to protect themselves from further sexual infections.......While drugs were able to facilitate sexual enjoyment in a variety of ways, the majority of men were actually not happy with their sex life. Many desired a long-term partner for more intimate and emotionally connected sex and felt that drug use, or a close association with the social network of men who engage in chemsex, was unlikely to lead to this. .....While drugs were able to facilitate a great deal of sexual pleasure, they were also associated with a range of physical, mental, social and relational harms ......A significant number of those we interviewed lamented the lost opportunities for social connection, career progression or relationship development, which they believed was a consequence of their drug use. .......Nearly a third of men found it difficult to control their behaviour while under the influence of drugs and engaged in HIV/STI transmission risk behaviour, which they subsequently regretted. These were often men who had pre-existing problems negotiating safer sex, which were exacerbated by the presence of drugs.....A small sample of men sought out risky sex and felt that this was facilitated by the drugs they took. The drugs enabled them to push sexual boundaries and to play out sexual fantasies of danger and transgression. .......More than a quarter of participants (all of whom were HIV positive) had made pre-determined decisions to engage in unprotected anal intercourse (UAI) with men they believed to be sero-concordant. Drugs may increase the volume of men they have sex with, and the duration of sexual acts, but did not appear to be the main driver of sexual risk taking. ........A sizeable minority - approximately one in four participants - frequently engaged in chemsex but felt in control of their actions, enjoyed their sex lives, and were, for the most part, engaging in sex with very limited chance of HIV/STI transmission.


'Chemsex' culture upping HIV risk amongst gay males
By: Information Daily Staff Writer
Published: Thursday, May 29, 2014 - 09:45 GMT
Crystal meth and mephedrone, increasingly popular drugs at sex parties, are causing a disproportionate amount of harm to the health of gay male users. The increasing prevalence of recreational hard drug use - combined with risky sexual practices - has now been flagged as a cause for concern by EU drugs agency EMCDDA.
Known colloquially as 'chemsex parties', a small but significant number of gay men are imbibing a cocktail of drugs such as mephedrone, cocaine, crystal meth and Viagra before engaging in risky and often unprotected sex with multiple partners.
The problem appears particularly concentrated in the capital, London, as well as in some parts of Paris.
LGBT health group London Friend, the UK's oldest charity of its kind, concedes that use of such drugs in this context is far less common than cannabis and alcohol use, but that these drugs cause a disproportionate amount of harm. There are particular concerns over the inherent risk of contracting HIV when using injectables, as well as via unprotected sexual contact. According to 'The Chemsex Study', produced by Sigma Research, only a 'sizeable minority' of men involved in the scene always maintain condom use whilst engaging in intoxicated sexual activity.
London Friend is working to encourage these men, who they believe are often truly seeking meaningful and loving relationships, to pursue healthier methods of meeting new people.
"At London Friend we're interested in challenging this narrative, encouraging debate on the perceived norms on the gay scene", Monty Moncrieff, the Chief Executive, explained. "If so many men are telling us the same thing, maybe nobody is truly getting out of chemsex what they say they're really looking for?"
Last year, Moncrieff wrote for The Information Daily, asking if gay and bisexual men are getting a "bum deal from public health". He said at the time: "The vast majority of men seeking support tell us they are using during sex. Of course, sex and drugs have gone hand in hand for many years (inextricably linked to rock & roll) but something's changed.
"The pattern used to be to go out for a night on the town, a few drinks, perhaps some 'recreational' drugs, a nightclub and then a tumble into bed at the end of the night if you'd got lucky. Our guys tell us now they're actively seeking sexual encounters specifically to use drugs, often missing the bars and clubs entirely by using social media and smartphone apps to hook-up."

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