Did you know that gay and bisexual men as well as straight men who have sex with men, take more illicit drugs than compared to other people?
According to the 2013/2014 Crime Survey for England and Wales, gay or bisexual men (33.0%) took more illicit drugs than gay or bisexual women (22.9%) and heterosexual men (11.1%) over the same period.
Locally, a report of the South Africa MSM Data Triangulation Project has revealed that the use of illegal substances such as cannabis (dagga), methamphetamine (tik) and other stimulants is on the rise amongst gay and bisexual men.
What’s more, these substances are used in the context of sexual encounters and are likely to increase the frequency of high-risk sexual practices which can lead to HIV acquisition.
“Chemsex – the increasingly popular practice of using recreational drugs in a sexual context – has led to not only many being trapped in a vicious circle of sex, dependence and addiction but can also heighten risks of HIV acquisition since participants use condoms less often, have more sexual partners and share needles when injecting and straws when inhaling drugs,” says Nina Morris Lee, Head of Marketing at Anova Health Institute.
The organisation is spearheading WeTheBrave.co.za, the first large scale sexual health campaign ever in South Africa to specifically address gay and bisexual men, and other men who have sex with men.
Funded by the Elton John Aids Foundation, the WeTheBrave.co.za campaign addresses both prevention and treatment issues in an affirming, non-judgemental and sex-positive way that is both entertaining and enlightening.
“While we neither condemn nor condone chemsex amongst these men, we encourage them to keep their sexual health and that of their partners in mind when engaging in these behaviours,” says Morris Lee.
“This entails trying to prevent new HIV infections by using protection, regular HIV testing in order to know their status and using antiretroviral treatment when and if they need to. We further suggest taking pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) medication which reduces HIV infection in HIV-negative, at-risk individuals.”
The WeTheBrave.co.za campaign links to Anova’s Health4Men clinical services in the public sector and independent clinicians in the private sector. For more information on the campaign visit www.wethebrave.co.za or follow it on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. Join the conversation with #BraveEnough