New HIV diagnoses in the gay male community of London have risen by at least 21% from 2011 to 2012, whereas the rest of England has seen a 4% drop. Medical research has cited the binge drug-taking behaviour in the capital’s gay scene as one cause fuelling the surge in infections, however confining this problem to homosexual men is to deny a wider problem in society and could stigmatise a group.

The authors of an article published in the Lancet medical journal, Tony Kirkby and Michelle Thornber-Dunwell, found that participants often have unprotected sex with multiple partners as well as sharing needles:

“London’s 24-hour gay scene is world famous, with clubbing that goes on all weekend and beyond… Many of London’s drug-using men who have sex with men (MSM)… often congregate at post-club parties known as chill-outs where drug-taking continues until drugs, money, energy, or all three run out.”

However they note that “also lesbians, and… heterosexual male and female friends” participate in such events.

Public Health England’s (PHE) Head of HIV surveillance Valerie Delpech noted, “[t]he good news is that increased HIV testing in recent years accounts for some of this rise, however the scale of the increase seen shows us that high rates of transmission are ongoing.”

She agreed that the “anecdotal evidence from drug and alcohol clinics in London that recreational or club drug use amongst gay men is a growing issue, which warrants further investigation.”

It is hoped that the PHE’s recently introduced enhanced behavioural surveillance of gay men who are diagnosed with HIV within six months of acquisition, will help explore the issue and find solutions to the problem. This active stance against HIV transmission is great, however other groups should not be left out of such studies. Anyone, regardless of sexual orientation, can be infected with HIV if exposed to it.

Whether straight or gay, if you have participated in any high risk activities and are worried you may have an STI or HIV, Better2Know has clinics across the UK. This includes London clinics with extended opening hours which you can visit at any time on your chosen day. Book online or talk to our friendly booking team today and get yourself tested.

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