Reducing substance use and sexual risk behaviour among men who have sex with men in South Africa

  • Petal Petersen Williams 1. Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug Research Unit, Medical Research Council, Cape Town, South Africa 2. Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
  • Tara Carney 1. Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug Research Unit, Medical Research Council, Cape Town, South Africa 2. Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
  • Charles D.H. Parry 1. Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug Research Unit, Medical Research Council, Cape Town, South Africa 2. Department of Psychiatry, University of Stellenbosch, Stellenbosch, South Africa http://orcid.org/0000-0001-9787-2785
Keywords: HIV risk, HIV intervention, alcohol, drugs

Abstract

Men who have sex with men have been identified as a population at risk of acquiring and transmitting HIV. Studies in South Africa have reported a high prevalence of HIV, as well as high levels of alcohol and other drug use, among men who have sex with men, and the use of substances (alcohol and drugs) to facilitate their sexual encounters. Since 2007, interventions focused on prevention have been rolled out to vulnerable men who have sex with men and who also use alcohol or other drugs. The interventions include community-based outreach; provision of information on HIV/AIDS, substance abuse, and safer sex practices; and the development of risk-reduction plans. Among 195 men who participated in our study, there were significant reductions in the proportion who used cannabis and ecstasy, including the use of these drugs during sex. No reduction was observed in the use of any other substances. In general, after the intervention our participants reported less frequent use of alcohol and drugs and greater engagement in safer sexual practices. Despite these encouraging findings, the combination of substance use while engaging in sex had actually increased. The study findings suggest that interventions that target men who have sex with men, and who use alcohol and other drugs, could reduce risk behaviours in this population.

Significance: 
  • Contributes to knowledge about risk reduction strategies.
  • Describes strategies for reducing drug and sexual harm among men who have sex with men.
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Published
2016-09-28