A leading sexual health charity has launched new campaign to make gay men aware of the risks of using poppers when having unprotected sex.

Terrence Higgins Trust’s (THT) campaign strapline: “Poppers increase the risk of HIV being passed on when fucking without condoms,” highlights the fact that if you have anal sex without a condom the risk of passing on HIV is increased if you use poppers.

The campaign is being launched in response to new research which investigated seroconversions (become HIV positive) among gay men.

A major finding from the study was that poppers use during unprotected anal intercourse appeared to be a key risk factor in acquiring HIV.

80% of men in the study who tested HIV positive used poppers compared to 58% who remained negative.

Using poppers may cause a significant change to the inside of the rectum.

They increase the blood supply to the area, expanding blood vessels, which can make them more likely to bleed.

This means that men are at greater risk of HIV if they use poppers when having sex without a condom.

Using poppers also lowers inhibitions, which can result in longer and rougher sex sessions, causing a risk of tears and abrasions on the penis and inside the rectum.

Marc Thompson, THT Deputy Head of Health Promotion said:

“Sex without a condom is already risky but many people might not be aware that if you sniff poppers there’s an increased risk of HIV transmission if you have unprotected sex.

“Research shows that poppers are the third most used drug by gay men after alcohol and tobacco so it’s vital that all gay men, irrespective of HIV status, are aware of the risk.”

THT is releasing a new advert, booklet, Fit for action, and a website to coincide with the poppers campaign.

The website and the booklet explain how HIV is passed on and how to reduce the risk including choosing and correctly using the right condom and lube, information about post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), HIV and the law, and poppers.

A new edition of the popular Exposed! Magazine will also be published to support the campaign.

To find out more visit: www.chapsonline.org.uk/biology