‘Chemsex’ culture upping HIV risk amongst gay males
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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