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ObjectivesThe objective of this study was to compare the prevalence of polydrug use, use of drugs associated with chemsex, specific drug use, and HIV-related behaviours, between two time periods, using two groups of HIV-negative men who have sex with men (MSM) attending the same sexual health clinics in London and Brighton, in two consecutive periods of time from 2013 to 2016.MethodsData from MSM in the cross-sectional Attitudes to and Understanding Risk of Acquisition of HIV (AURAH) study (June 2013 to September 2014) were compared with baseline data from different MSM in the prospective cohort study Attitudes to and Understanding Risk of Acquisition of HIV over Time (AURAH2) (November 2014 to April 2016). Prevalence of polydrug use, drug use associated with chemsex and specific drug use, and 10 measures of HIV-related behaviours including condomless sex, post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) use, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) use, and HIV testing, were compared. Prevalence ratios (PRs) for the association of the study (time period) with drug use and HIV-related behaviour measures were estimated using modified Poisson regression analysis, unadjusted and adjusted for sociodemographic factors.ResultsIn total, 991 MSM were included from AURAH and 1031 MSM from AURAH2. After adjustment for sociodemographic factors, use of drugs associated with chemsex had increased (adjusted PR (aPR) 1.30, 95% CI 1.11 to 1.53) and there were prominent increases in specific drug use; in particular, mephedrone (aPR 1.32, 95% CI 1.10 to 1.57), γ-hydroxybutyric/γ-butryolactone (aPR 1.47, 95% CI 1.15 to 1.87) and methamphetamine (aPR 1.42, 95% CI 1.01 to 2.01). Use of ketamine had decreased (aPR 0.54, 95% CI 0.38 to 0.78). Certain measures of HIV-related behaviours had also increased, most notably PEP use (aPR 1.50, 95% CI 1.21 to 1.88) and number of self-reported bacterial STI diagnoses (aPR 1.24, 95% CI 1.08 to 1.43).ConclusionsThere have been significant increases in drug use associated with chemsex and some measures of HIV-related behaviours among HIV-negative MSM in the last few years. Changing patterns of drug use and associated behaviours should be monitored to enable sexual health services to plan for the increasingly complex needs of some clients.

Original publication




Journal article


Sexually transmitted infections

Publication Date





494 - 501


Research Department of Infection and Population Health, Institute for Global Health, UCL, London, UK.


Humans, HIV, HIV Infections, Substance-Related Disorders, Methamphetamine, Prevalence, Prospective Studies, Cross-Sectional Studies, Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice, Risk-Taking, Sexual Behavior, Homosexuality, Male, Unsafe Sex, Time Factors, Adult, Middle Aged, Sexual Partners, London, Male, Drug Users, Young Adult, Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, Surveys and Questionnaires, United Kingdom, Sexual Health, Illicit Drugs