National AIDS Trust: New HIV risks for gay men who inject steroids and tanning agents

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A significant increase in the number of gay men injecting substances and people injecting image and performance-enhancing drugs could lead to increasing levels of HIV, the National AIDS Trust (NAT) has warned in a new report.

The report found gay men are increasingly using newer drugs, such as crystal meth, mephedrone and GHB/GBL, often sharing needles and using drugs in the context of risky sexual behaviour.

In March, NAT urged local authorities in London to do more to tackle the problem.  

At one drug treatment centre in London, 85% of gay men now report using one or more of these three drugs compared to only 3% in 2005.

Yusef Azad, director of policy and campaigns at NAT, said: “We are currently failing gay men who have problems with drug use and safer sex. There are few services which understand their specific needs and these services are massively overstretched. We need drugs and sexual health services work together to meet the needs of gay men, reduce problematic drug use and reduce HIV and hepatitis C transmissions linked to drug use.”

The report also highlights the rise in injecting of what are known as Image and Performance Enhancing Drugs (IPEDs) such as steroids or tanning agents.

NAT warns that this poses a significant HIV risk as new users may not understand safe injecting practices. There is evidence of elevated HIV and hepatitis rates among steroid injectors, the charity said.

Yusef Azad added: “NAT’s 2010 survey of public knowledge and attitudes to HIV found only 45% of the general public knew HIV can be transmitted through sharing injecting equipment.  If newer communities are starting to inject drugs, there is an urgent task to ensure health promotion and harm reduction messages reach these groups. Otherwise there will be new transmissions of HIV and hepatitis B and C.”