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Source: Gay Health News  Nov 26, 2019

Gay 'Chemsex' Is Causing A HIV Epidemic Resurgence, STIs Increases and Drug Related Health Issues.

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Gay 'Chemsex' Is Causing A HIV Epidemic Resurgence, STIs Increases and Drug Related Health Issues.
Source: Gay Health News  Nov 26, 2019
A surprising surge in gaychemsex” parties, where guys spend days getting high on drugs and having sex with scores of partners, is re-fuelling epidemics of HIV among gay men in European, Asian and even US  towns and cities, HIV experts say.

Despite much higher risks of contracting the virus that causes AIDS, as well as other sexually transmitted infections (STIs), users search online “hook-up” apps like Grindr for tags such as “high and horny” or “party and play” to find others wanting drug-heightened and often anonymous and unprotected sex.

The result, HIV experts say, is that in cities across Europe, Asia and also US, HIV is spreading rapidly among men who have sex with men  leading to concentrated epidemics in hard-to-reach groups.

Dr Rusi Jaspal, a professor of psychology and sexual health at De Montfort University in the British city of Leicester who has been studying the spread of HIV and the chemsex scene told Gay Health News, “Chemsex is very pervasive now , it’s a growing phenomenon.”

In Asia, the phenomenon is apparent in cities like Singapore, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Hanoi , Beijing, Shanghai, Bangkok and Tokyo.

Chemsex is characterized by the use of drugs such as crystal meth, mephedrone and GHB, or gamma-hydroxybutyric acid, to enhance sexual arousal, performance and pleasure.

A subset of chemsex is known as “slamsex”, where partygoers self-inject drugs rather than taking them as pills or via pipes.

Considering the fact that drug usage is already illegal in the first place, many of these individuals are not event aware of the health effects of the drugs that they are using. Already the basic drugs that many gays are using known as ‘poppers’ or amyl nitrite can cause skin lesions around the nose, sinusitis and other respiratory problems in the long term and also eye problems, even blindness and brain damage.

But many gay men are not aware that drugs like crystal meth or ecstasy can not only cause mental issues, cognitive decline and also brain damage even from short term use but it can cause sudden cardiovascular deaths even for first time users.

GHB is even worst as it can cause a variety of mental issues, brain damage and even seizures and deaths or memory loss.

Many gays take drugs to “reduce inhibitions and increase feelings of horniness or lust”, Jaspal said, and contribute to “a perfect storm” in groups with high HIV rates for the virus to spread.

In a recently study published of people attending HIV clinics in England and Wales, 40% of HIV-positive men surveyed reported chemsex in the previous year, and 15% said they’d engaged in slamsex.

A chemsex specialist, Ignacio Labayen de Inza,  who works at several UK clinics and online as a counsellor for men seeking help, says “things have got much worse” “It’s not just a UK thing,” he commented during the IAPAC conference. “It’s in Amsterdam, Berlin, Munich, Rome, Kiev, Moscow, Helsinki - and in many of what people call ‘gay destinations’, like (Spain’s) Ibiza, Torremolinos, the Canary Islands, Bangkok”

A Spain-based study last year found that of almost 750 HIV-positive men surveyed, 60% reported having unprotected anal sex and 62% had been diagnosed with an STI. Rates of infections and high-risk sexual behavior were higher among the 32% who reported having engaged in chemsex or slamsex.

Globally, the fight against HIV and AIDS has made dramatic progress in the past decade. According to the UNAIDS agency, 1.7 million people were newly infected with HIV in 2018, a 16% drop since 2010, driven mostly by reducing HIV rates in Africa. But progress is stalling and the epidemic is tightening its grip in key groups. UNAIDS says more then half of new HIV cases in 2018 were in minority or marginalized groups such as men who have sex with men, transgender people and sex workers.

 “People are not scared any more of HIV,” he said. “Many people I see say they think ‘it’s only a matter of time anyway, so I might as well have some fun.” says a HIV doctor  in Shanghai.

What is worrisome is because of the inhibition caused by these drug usage, many gay men indulge in activities that can expose them to different strains of HIV in one go and also expose them to a variety of STIs such as HPV, Herpes, Syphilis, Gonorrhea, etc. These really causes havoc on their immune systems and also makes them bad candidates for certain antiretroviral treatments later when they have been diagnosed and even for those already HIV positive, they are literally committing suicide by exposing themselves to other strains and diseases.

Shannon Hader, deputy director of UNAIDS, says the key to limiting chemsex and its consequences is to get the right protection messages and methods to those who need them.

Encouraging use of HIV prevention drugs known as PreP, or pre-exposure prophylaxis, is one effective step, she said, and can give people who have chemsex some control over their health.“In this epidemic, we always have to be looking for what’s coming next that we’re not addressing. And with PreP, we need to ensure we’re not missing people in the chemsex environment.”

But most important is that most gay people such be made aware of the dangers of drug usage in the first place coupled with the health issues of STIs and also exposure to multiple HIV strains. Many gay men do not even know that a STI like HPV can cause cancers like anal cancer, penile cancer, throat cancer or mouth cancer in them once they get infected.