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BackgroundRecreational drug use and associated harms continue to be of significant concern in men who have sex with men (MSM) particularly in the context of HIV and STI transmission.MethodsData from 1484 HIV-negative or undiagnosed MSM included in the AURAH study, a cross-sectional, self-completed questionnaire study of 2630 individuals from 20 sexual health clinics in the United Kingdom in 2013-2014, was analysed. Two measures of recreational drug use in the previous three months were defined; (i) polydrug use (use of 3 or more recreational drugs) and (ii) chemsex drug use (use of mephedrone, crystal methamphetamine or GHB/GBL). Associations of socio-demographic, health and lifestyle factors with drug use, and associations of drug use with sexual behaviour, were investigated.ResultsOf the 1484 MSM, 350 (23.6%) reported polydrug use and 324 (21.8%) reported chemsex drug use in the past three months. Overall 852 (57.5%) men reported condomless sex in the past three months; 430 (29.0%) had CLS with ≥2 partners, 474 (31.9%) had CLS with unknown/HIV+ partner(s); 187 (12.6%) had receptive CLS with an unknown status partner. For polydrug use, prevalence ratios (95% confidence interval) for association with CLS measures, adjusted for socio-demographic factors were: 1.38 (1.26, 1.51) for CLS; 2.11 (1.80, 2.47) for CLS with ≥2 partners; 1.89 (1.63, 2.19) for CLS with unknown/HIV+ partner(s); 1.36 (1.00, 1.83) for receptive CLS with an unknown status partner. Corresponding adjusted prevalence ratios for chemsex drug use were: 1.38 (1.26, 1.52); 2.07 (1.76, 2.43); 1.88 (1.62, 2.19); 1.49 (1.10, 2.02). Polydrug and chemsex drug use were also strongly associated with previous STI, PEP use, group sex and high number of new sexual partners. Associations remained with little attenuation after further adjustment for depressive symptoms and alcohol intake.ConclusionThere was a high prevalence of polydrug use and chemsex drug use among HIV negative MSM attending UK sexual health clinics. Drug use was strongly associated with sexual behaviours linked to risk of acquisition of STIs and HIV.

Original publication




Journal article


The International journal on drug policy

Publication Date





33 - 43


Research Department of Infection & Population Health, University College London, London, United Kingdom.


Attitudes to and Understanding of Risk of Acquisition of HIV (AURAH) Study Group, Humans, Sexually Transmitted Diseases, HIV Infections, Substance-Related Disorders, Prevalence, Cross-Sectional Studies, Risk-Taking, Sexual Behavior, Homosexuality, Male, Life Style, Unsafe Sex, Adult, Middle Aged, Sexual Partners, Male, Young Adult, Surveys and Questionnaires, United Kingdom, Sexual and Gender Minorities, Sexual Health, Illicit Drugs