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Chemsex in the capital city: marijuana and mixing of drugs are popular. Meanwhile, condoms use is much less than optimal: only 26% of men practicing Chemsex use them.

The study of the trendy, but poorly researched in Ukraine topic of Chemsex (the use of various mind-altering chemical substances, immediately before or during sexual intercourse) among MSM (men who have sex with men – Ed.) and its influence on the increase of HIV and viral hepatitis risk was presented by Andrey Chernyshov, Head of Public Relations and Advocacy of “ALLIANCE.GLOBAL” NGO, who was the study supervisor, at the XI National LGBTI conference (18-20.10.2018).

The survey was conducted in Kyiv among 120 MSM aged 18 years and older through conversation of with the use of a voice recorder by “peer” interviewers. According to the survey, 14% of respondents reported that they are HIV-positive. The organizers suggest that the number of HIV-positive MSM is actually higher.

Five facts about the use of Chemsex among the MSM in Kyiv.

  1. Men practicing Chemsex mostly use non-injecting drugs. Among those surveyed, 97.8% never used injecting drugs, whereas half of the respondents tried non-injecting drugs, and 7.9% did it during the last month.
  2. The most popular drug among MSM practicing Chemsex is marijuana, 99% of respondents reported to have smoked it. Amphetamine is the second most popular substance. 85% of respondents tried it. 83% tried poppers, 76% – Ecstasy, 64% – MDMA, and 52% used LSD. Opiates and heroin are the least popular, 7% and 4% respectively.
  3. All survey participants have been tested for HIV at least once in their lives and know where to go to take the test. 14% admitted that they are HIV-positive, of them 12% are taking antiretroviral therapy. About 87% were tested for hepatitis B and 9% reported a positive result.
  4. Chemsex often goes along with group sex or extreme sexual practices. A common practice is the simultaneous or sequential use of various chemicals. Thus, 90% of respondents said that they combined substances with alcohol, and 87% used two or more psychoactive substances at the same time. More than 30% used drugs in conjunction with drugs that increase sexual vigor.
  5. Almost half of the respondents had a negative experience of Chemsex. Thus, 46% at least once had an overdose, and 31% received physical injuries: anal injuries, wounds, hematomas, bruises and burns of mucous membranes. Most often, Kyiv residents practice Chemsex at home, at someone’s place, in nightclubs or outdoors. At the same time only 26% of the respondents consistently used condoms.

Andrei Chernyshov noted that currently there are no prevention programs that would be focused on the specifics of MSM who use drugs and practice Chemsex.

“The minimum that needs to be implemented as soon as possible is drug quality tests at nightclubs and saliva tests for HIV, as well as setting up a scheme for emergency first aid and medical care for MSM in case of overdose”, he suggests.
To eliminate prevention gaps, the representative of “ALLIANCE.GLOBAL” proposes to create a national web resource on the topic of Chemsex, focusing on information on substances, testing of drugs and recommendations on drugs which must not be mixed.

To reduce the spread of HIV among MSM practicing Chemsex, pre-exposure prevention (PrEP) medication can also be used, which ALLIANCE.GLOBAL has already successfully implemented as part of a pilot project in Kyiv.

Authors – Andrey Chernyshov, Yana Kazmirenko

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