Chems4EU: chemsex use and its impacts across four European countries in HIV-positive men who have sex with men attending HIV services
journal contributionposted on 29.11.2021, 22:21 by GG Whitlock, K Protopapas, JI Bernardino, A Imaz, A Curran, C Stingone, S Shivasankar, S Edwards, S Herbert, K Thomas, R Mican, P Prieto, J Nestor Garcia, M Andreoni, S Hill, H Okhai, D Stuart, Adam BourneAdam Bourne, K Conway
Introduction: Chemsex in a European context is the use of any of the following drugs to facilitate sex: crystal methamphetamine, mephedrone and gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB)/gamma-butyrolactone (GBL) and, to a lesser extent, cocaine and ketamine. This study describes the prevalence of self-reported recreational drug use and chemsex in HIV-positive men who have sex with men (MSM) accessing HIV services in four countries. It also examines the problematic impacts and harms of chemsex and access to chemsex-related services. Methods: This is a cross-sectional multi-centre questionnaire study of HIV-positive MSM accessing nine HIV services in the UK, Spain, Greece and Italy. Results: In all, 1589 HIV-positive MSM attending HIV services in four countries completed the questionnaire. The median age of participants was 38 years (interquartile range: 32–46 years) and 1525 (96.0%) were taking antiretroviral therapy (ART). In the previous 12 months, 709 (44.6%) had used recreational drugs, 382 (24.0%) reported chemsex and 104 (6.5%) reported injection of chemsex-associated drugs (‘slamsex’). Of the 382 engaging in chemsex, 155 (40.6%) reported unwanted side effects as a result of chemsex and 81 (21.2%) as a result of withdrawal from chemsex. The reported negative impacts from chemsex were on work (25.1%, 96), friends/family (24.3%, 93) and relationships (28.3%, 108). Fifty-seven (14.9%) accessed chemsex-related services in the past year, 38 of whom (67%) felt the service met their needs. Discussion: A quarter of participants self-reported chemsex in the past 12 months. There were high rates of harms from chemsex across all countries, including negative impacts on work, friends/family and relationships. Although a minority of those engaging in chemsex accessed support, most found this useful.