Gay and bisexual men who use drugs while having sex are more likely to be diagnosed with HIV, hepatitis C and other STIs, a new study has found.
The study, published in the medical journal HIV Medicine, reviewed information from 1,840 gay and bisexual men who used two sexual health clinics in London between 2014 and 2015.
Researchers found that those men who reported they had participated in “chemsex” – which is where people take drugs including crystal meth, mephedrone, cocaine and ketamine to facilitate sex – were five times more likely to be newly diagnosed with HIV.
The study also found the participants were nine times more likely to be diagnosed with hepatitis C and four times more likely to be infected with another STI.
The researchers said that those who engage in chemsex put themselves at risk because the use of drugs and alcohol in sexual settings could encourage unprotected sex and other behaviours linked to HIV transmission.
Study author Dr Aseel Hegazi, from the St George’s University Hospital Foundation Trust, said the research was the first published data “clearly demonstrating a link between a new HIV diagnosis and chemsex.”
“At-risk [gay, bisexual and men who have sex with men] participating in chemsex should access prevention strategies such as pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, and there is a need to increase public awareness regarding the potential consequences of chemsex,” Dr Hegazi said.
The trend of chemsex has risen in popularity in recent years due to the availability of hookup apps and certain drugs, and in 2015 the practice was the focus of a VICE documentary which followed the lives of a group of gay men in London.
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