Gay ‘chemsex’ is fuelling urban HIV epidemics, AIDS experts warn

Gay ‘chemsex’ is fuelling urban HIV epidemics, AIDS experts warn, by Kate Kelland.

A surge in “chemsex” parties, where people spend days getting high on drugs and having sex with scores of partners, is re-fuelling epidemics of HIV among gay men in European towns and cities, doctors 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. …

A crytal meth rock

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. …

At a London conference hosted by the International Association of Providers of AIDS Care (IAPAC), the group’s president Jose Zuniga, described chemsex as a “challenge of proportions we cannot fully comprehend at this time”. …

“It’s not just a UK thing,” [Ignacio Labayen de Inza, a chemsex specialist] told Reuters 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.” …

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. …

The human immunodeficiency virus that causes AIDS can’t be cured, but can be kept in check for decades with cocktails of highly effective antiviral medicines. It’s partly this advance that is behind the high-risk practice of chemsex, said de Inza.

“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’.”

What happens when they get married?