Understanding HIV Risks of Chronic Drug-Using Men Who Have Sex with Men

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Focus groups and individual structured interviews were conducted in six cities with 98 predominantly street-recruited men who had a recent history of smoking crack or injecting drugs and who reported having had sex with other men (MSM) in the past year. Twenty-six focus groups explored the cultural and social context of participant's drug use and sexual activity and addressed outreach and HIV prevention issues pertinent to this population. Narrative summaries developed from verbatim focus group transcripts identified seven themes: (a) sexual orientation and gender identity; (b) interactions within and between MSM networks; (c) drug use, sexual activity and personal relationships; (d) HIV transmission bridges; (e) preferred HIV information sources; (f) HIV knowledge, prevention practices and risk behaviours; and (g) availability of HIV and drug-related services. Of the 98 MSM drug users, 42% identified publicly as gay or homosexual; 35% identified publicly, but only 21% privately, as heterosexual. A total of 51% had one or more female sex partners in the past year. There was a high frequency of unprotected sex in conjunction with drug use and a distinct preference for having sex when high. For most participants, drug use rather than sexual orientation formed the core of personal identity. Participants reported associating primarily with other drug users, usually MSM, and had limited contact with people who did not use drugs and the mainstream gay community. Participants' sexual and drug-injecting activities were judged to be a bridge for transmission of HIV to both people who used drugs and those who did not.

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