LONDON — A large survey of gay and bisexual men living with HIV and attending eight sexual health clinics in England has found that half of them had used recreational drugs in the last three months and a quarter had used more than three drugs, AIDSmap reports.
The ASTRA (Antiretrovirals, Sexual Transmission Risk and Attitudes) study was conducted in sexual health clinics in central, north and east London, Sussex and Manchester in 2011 and 2012. All clinic attendees living with HIV had a viral load test and screening for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and were asked to fill out a behavioral questionnaire, AIDSmap reports.
Of those, 64 percent completed it. Of these, 2,248 people (69 percent) were men who had sex with men (MSM), most of whom defined as gay.
The 2,248 men formed an aging group: the median age was 46, 11 percent were over 50 and only 5 percent were under 30. The median time since their HIV diagnosis was 10 years, 85 percent were on antiretroviral therapy (ART) and 73 percent had a viral load under 50 copies/ml at their most recent test, AIDSmap reports.
The most popular drugs (excluding alcohol and tobacco) were nitrites (poppers), used by 27 percent of study participants, and cannabis, cocaine and erectile dysfunction drugs such as Viagra, which were each used by about 20 percent. Ketamine and MDMA (ecstasy) were used by about 12 percent of participants, GHB or GBL by 9 percent and methamphetamine and mephedrone by 7 percent.
Researchers conclude that use of multiple drugs and HIV and STI risk in gay men with HIV are “inextricably linked” and encourage more study, AIDSmap reports.
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