BACKGROUND: Substance use has been consistently reported to be more prevalent amongst Men who have Sex with Men (MSM) compared to the general population. Substance use, in particular polydrug use, has been found to be influenced by social and contextual factors and to increase the risk of unprotected intercourse among MSM. The objective of this analysis was to investigate the prevalence and predictors of drug use during a sexual encounter and to identify specific prevention needs.
METHODS/DESIGN: A multi-site bio-behavioural cross-sectional survey was implemented in 13 European cities, targeting MSM and using Time-Location Sampling and Respondent-Driven Sampling methods Multivariable multi-level logistic random-intercept model (random effect of study site) was estimated to identify factors associated with the use of alcohol, cannabis, party drugs, sexual performance enhancement drugs and chemsex drugs.
RESULTS: Overall, 1261 (30.0%) participants reported drug use, and 436 of 3706 (11.8%) reported the use of two or more drugs during their last sexual encounter. By drug class, 966 (23.0%) reported using sexual performance enhancement drugs, 353 (8.4%) - party drugs, and 142 (3.4%) the use of chemsex drugs. Respondents who reported drug use were more frequently diagnosed with HIV (10.5% vs. 3.9%) before and with other STIs during the 12 months prior to the study (16.7% vs. 9.2%). The use of all the analysed substances was significantly associated with sexual encounter with more than one partner.
DISCUSSION: Substance and polydrug use during sexual encounters occurred amongst sampled MSM across Europe although varying greatly between study sites. Different local social norms within MSM communities may be important contextual drivers of drug use, highlighting the need for innovative and multi-faceted prevention measures to reduce HIV/STI risk in the context of drug use.