London: A new type of drug treatment – Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) – could offer protection against HIV infection. People are given a combination of anti-HIV drugs tenofovir and emtricitabine – currently being sold under the trade name Truvada – before they have unprotected sex. The drug is taken as a single pill and halts the replication of the virus, stopping infection. For decades sexual health workers have concentrated on the message of always using a condom as the main tactic against the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.But certain risky behaviours are on the rise. Illegal drugs like MDMA and speed have long been used on the gay club scene. But now “chemsex” is a growing problem – parties in private homes centred on communal drug taking and sex.
The likes of mephedrone, crystal meth and GHB/GBL (or “G” for short) can increase libido and dramatically decrease inhibition and the desire to sleep. It’s impossible to know how many men have become infected with HIV while using chems, but condom-less sex is normal for many men on the chem scene. In a study published by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, a third of men surveyed described incidents of unintended unprotected sex while under the influence of chemsex drugs.
Simultaneously, HIV infection rates are rising. One in every eight gay men in London is HIV positive. Kiran is one of them. “Once you try a powerful drug like crystal meth, and if that’s linked to sex, that’s the kind of sex you’re going to want. Vanilla sex just doesn’t compare. Your boundaries shift.”