BACKGROUND: It has been speculated that the prevalence of chemsex is increasing in men who have sex with men and that this may be playing a role in the spread of HIV.
METHODS: We assessed if the prevalence of reported chemsex was increasing and if chemsex was associated with HIV infection in clients attending the 'Helpcenter', Antwerp, between 2011 and 2017. This is a HIV/STI testing center that offers HIV/STI testing to HIV-uninfected individuals from key populations including MSM.
RESULTS: We found an increase in the reporting of condomless sex associated with the use of a number of drugs, including ecstasy, amphetamines, GHB and cocaine in MSM (from 8 to 17%) but not in heterosexuals. Reporting condomless chemsex was associated with HIV infection (adjusted odds ratio 5.7 [95% confidence interval 3.2-10.4]).
CONCLUSIONS: Our findings provide further evidence of the importance of asking MSM clients about the use of psychoactive substances during consultations and tailoring interventions such as pre exposure prophylaxis, more frequent STI screening and substance abuse counseling accordingly.