Gay men who engage in "chemsex" parties, where people get high on drugs for days and engage in unprotected sex with multiple partners, is refueling "epidemics of HIV among gay men in European towns and cities, doctors say," according to Reuters.
Despite the very high risk of acquiring HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) by engaging in such sexual behavior, "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," said Reuters.
Two of the drugs often used for "chemsex" are crystal meth and GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyric acid), a drug that induces euphoria and is also used as a date-rape drug. A subset of chemsex is "slamsex," according to Reuters, in which partygoers "self-inject drugs rather than taking them as pills or via pipes."
“Chemsex is very pervasive now -- it’s a growing phenomenon,” said Rusi Jaspal, a professor of psychology and sexual health at De Montfort University in Leicester, England.
The drugs "reduce inhibitions and increase feelings of horniness or lust," he said, and this creates a "perfect storm" for the partygoers who are already at high risk of acquiring HIV.
"The result, AIDS experts say, is that in cities across Europe, HIV is spreading rapidly among men who have sex with men -- leading to concentrated epidemics in hard-to-reach groups," reported Reuters.
A 2018 study from Spain showed that of almost 750 HIV-positive men surveyed, "60% reported having unprotected anal sex and 62% had been diagnosed with an STI," a sexually transmitted infection, reported Reuters.
In a 2014 study of "people attending HIV clinics in England and Wales, 30% of HIV-positive men surveyed reported chemsex in the previous year, and 10% said they’d engaged in slamsex," according to the news service.
Part of the problem, according to the experts interviewed, is that gay chemsex participants apparently are no longer afraid of AIDS because of "highly effective antiviral medicines." These medicines cannot cure AIDS but they can prolong the lives of HIV-infected persons for decades.
“People are not scared any more of HIV,” chemsex specialist Ignacio Labayen de Inza told Reuters. “Many people I see say they think ‘it’s only a matter of time anyway, so I might as well have some fun’.”