Chemsex Parties Intensify HIV Risk for Gay Males

By John Lavitt 06/20/14

A dangerous combination of potent drugs and casual sex has increased the chances of men contracting HIV.

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The popularity of chemsex parties has intensified the HIV risk for gay men in cosmopolitan centers. In this party scene that has grown all over the Western world, a dangerous cocktail of crystal meth, cocaine, synthetic cathinone, mephedrone, and Viagra are jumbled together in a variety of combinations that has led to unprotected sex with multiple partners.

Such extreme behavior has raised a red flag with the European Union drugs agency EMCDDA (European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction). In a recent press release, the EMCDDA raised the alarm not only about the unsafe sex practices, but also about the sharp rise in injection drug use and the implied dangers of sharing needles.

“A behavior of growing concern - seen in sub-groups of men who have sex with men (MSM) - is that of injecting a variety of illicit drugs (e.g. cathinones and methamphetamine) in so-called ‘chemsex’ parties," the EMCDDA said in the press release. "To date, this new practice, associated with risky sexual practices, has been reported in some large cities. Given the potential impact of the emerging patterns of cathinone injection identified, close monitoring of the issue is a public health priority.”

According to the London-based results of The Chemsex Study by Sigma Research, only a "sizable minority" of men at chemsex parties use condoms while engaging in intoxicated sexual activity. In Europe, the problem has been particularly concentrated in major cosmopolitan centers like London and Paris. London Friend, the UK's oldest LGBT healthcare support system, believes the chemsex parties are responsible for a disproportionate amount of harm. By combining injection drug use with unprotected sexual contact, the chance of contracting HIV skyrockets at chemsex parties.

At such a gathering, a single case of HIV infection can be passed on several times and in rapid succession through the combination of unprotected sex and sharing needles. Monty Moncrieff, the Chief Executive of London Friend, explained how many gay men said the chemsex parties are a negative part of their lives. "If so many men are telling us the same thing, maybe nobody is truly getting out of chemsex what they say they're really looking for?"

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Growing up in Manhattan as a stutterer, John Lavitt discovered that writing was the best way to express himself when the words would not come. After graduating with honors from Brown University, he lived on the Greek island of Patmos, studying with his mentor, the late American poet Robert Lax. As a writer, John’s published work includes three articles in Chicken Soup For The Soul volumes and poems in multiple poetry journals and compilations. Active in recovery, John has been the Treatment Professional News Editor for The Fix. Since 2015, he has published over 500 articles on the addiction and recovery news website. Today, he lives in Los Angeles, trying his best to be happy and creative. Find John on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.