For many MSM, Chemsex is not just for Christmas, more people are now taking drugs to heighten their sexual pleasure. Three times as many gay and bisexual men in London inject drugs than in England as a whole. The research (from the London School of Medicine and Tropical Hygiene) also found that four times as many use crystal meth in the capital than across the rest of the country. Whilst so-called chemsex is not confined to the gay and bisexual population its growing popularity is seen by researchers to be more widespread in the gay community.
The number of men injecting in a sexual context quadrupled between 2011 and 2013, according to Antidote, the UK’s only lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender drug and alcohol support service. More than 60% of their clients injected drugs last year. This is double the number who injected in 2010. Nine years ago, fewer than 1% were injecting drugs and levels of injection in the gay and bisexual population has typically been very low. “It’s become somewhat destigmatised,” said Antidote’s David Stuart, who is believed to be the country’s first drug counsellor specialising in sexual health. “You can go on Grindr or other apps … and you can see the world of slamming is glamorised.”
Mr Stuart says that heroin addicts know where and how to get clean needles, “But if you ask a gay man at a sex party, he won’t know. Diseases can spread through careless injecting.” Wrong-sized syringes and losing track of injection timings can also lead to overdose; hospitalisation, and other issues, as well as HIV, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C Virus. Drug use can make people lose their inhibitions, a lack of caution, and people consenting to or taking part in acts which they perhaps would not normally do. Long sexual sessions with multiple partners can cause rectal trauma and penile abrasions making it more likely that any STI will be transmitted.
Yusef Azad, director of policy and campaigns at the National Aids Trust (NAT) said that, on average, five gay men in London are diagnosed with HIV every day. Some experts believe the rise in chemsex is a key to a trend in rising HIV infection levels (although this has not been proven). London had the highest number of new HIV diagnoses in the UK. A spokesman for Public Health England, which has established a working group to develop guidance on the trend, said: “This is a serious health issue that is driving poor sexual and mental health, as well as the transmission and acquisition of HIV and other blood-borne viruses.” They recommend MSM should have a full HIV and STI screen at least annually, or every three months if having condomless sex with new or casual partners.
Better2Know offer an Early Detection Screen for HIV, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C which can test just 10 days after exposure. We can test for syphilis 9 days after exposure. We also have three combination screens for MSM (men who sleep with men). Please call us on the above number or book online.