Gay and bisexual men who use drugs while having sex are more likely to be diagnosed with HIV, hepatitis C and other STIs, according to a new study.
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.
It found that those who reported they had participated in chemsex – the trend where people take drugs, including crystal meth, mephedrone, cocaine and ketamine, to enhance 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 argued that those who engage in chemsex put themselves at risk because the use of drugs and alcohol in sexual settings could encourage unprotected sex.
Dr Aseel Hegazi, of St George’s University Hospital Foundation Trust and author of the study, said: “These are the first published data clearly demonstrating a link between a new HIV diagnosis and chemsex.
“At risk GBMSM (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.”
The trend of chemsex or “slamsex” – when drugs are injected for a more intense high – has seen a rise in popularity in recent years due to the availability of certain drugs and dating apps.