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HIV-positive men in England ‘more likely to use chemsex drugs’ than other European countries, study finds

Patrick Kelleher November 14, 2019
HIV positive men in England more likely to use chemsex drugs than in other countries, study finds

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A study has found that HIV-positive men in England are significantly more likely to use drugs associated with chemsex than their counterparts in Spain, Greece and Italy.

The study – which was presented at the recent 17th European AIDS Conference – also revealed that HIV-positive men in England had higher general drug use than men in other countries.

The Gilead Sciences funded study was conducted at eight medical centres in the four countries, including HIV clinics in London, Northampton and Kent. 1,714 men responded anonymously to the survey.

33 per cent of respondents in England reported having used chemsex drugs, which are taken to enhance sex, in the last year compared to 22 per cent in Spain, 19 per cent in Greece and 13 per cent in Italy. English respondents were also much more likely to inject drugs than people in other countries, AIDS Map reports.

HIV-positive respondents in England were more likely to have used chemsex drugs in the last year than other countries.

278 of respondents in England said they had used recreational drugs in the last year and 135 of those (49 per cent) said they had used crystal meth, which is often associated with chemsex. That figure stands at 32 per cent in Greece, 23 per cent in Spain and just 5 per cent in Italy.

Worryingly, the use of GHB/GBL was highest in England. The substance – which is often used as a “date rape” drug – is commonly used in chemsex. An overdose of GHB can be fatal.

42 per cent of recreational drug users in England reported having taken GHB in the last year compared to 32 per cent in Spain, 29 per cent in Greece and 21 per cent in Italy. English respondents were also more likely to inject drugs than their counterparts in other countries.

Furthermore, the study revealed that HIV-positive men in England experience the most significant adverse effects of chemsex drugs. 21 per cent of respondents in England said drugs had had a negative impact on their work compared to 13 per cent in Spain, 8 per cent in Italy and 6.5 per cent in Greece.

Dr Kate Conway of Kent Community Health expressed concern that HIV-positive men in England are so much more likely to use chemsex drugs – and also drew attention to the low number seeking support. Just 12.5 per cent of drug users in England had sought professional help.

An overdose of GHB can be fatal.

Chemsex is a practice by which people take certain drugs to facilitate and enhance sex – however, the particular use of a drug called GHB has come under scrutiny in recent years as an overdose can result in death.

A study released earlier this year also found that people in the UK are more likely to use drugs to enhance sex.

Meanwhile, research released in September featured in documentary Sex, Drugs and Murder found severe adverse effects to GHB use in particular.

Of 2,700 men who take the drug, two thirds said they had experienced serious issues such as addiction, overdosing or sexual assault. Shockingly, more than a quarter of GHB users reported having been sexually assaulted and one in four knew of somebody who had died as a result of a GHB overdose.

Almost half of G users had overdosed and passed out from the drug, but most respondents were unaware that snoring could be a critical warning sign that someone is slipping into a lethal coma.

More: chemsex, drugs, european aids conference, GHB, HIV

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