New research into drug use behaviours among gay and bisexual men in Australia was published by the Kirby Institute today.

The Flux report is based on behavioural surveys of more than 3,000 men between 2014 and 2017.

Among the key findings is that while illicit drug use among gay and bi men is higher than the general population, most respondents who used drugs in the past six months only did so once or twice.

Most of those who had used alcohol or drugs reported more positive experiences than harms associated with their use, but noted a general trend in self-concern about alcohol or drug consumption – as well as an increase in respondents hearing concern about their use of substances from those close to them, rising to 63.5 per cent of respondents.

In 2014, the report’s first year, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) was used by under one per cent of participants, with PrEP use rising to 29.7 per cent of gay and bisexual men in 2017.

As with other recent studies, the increase in men using PrEP and treatment as prevention (TasP) has seen a decline in condom use.

The proportion of men reporting no sexual health test in the previous 6 months had decreased from 1 in 7 to 1 in 10 participants.

The most commonly used substances among gay and bisexual men were cannabis and poppers, though the frequency of amyl use may see a decline should the TGA’s ban of poppers go ahead.

Amyl use, notably is considered more acceptable among gay friends than ever, and around 75 per cent of those who used amyl doing so either once or twice or on a monthly basis.

22.3 per cent of respondents used poppers on a weekly basis.

“Most men continued to have negative perceptions toward drug use within the gay community, although they held less negative views about their own drug use,” according to the study’s overall conclusions.

“There was little change in the proportions who had used each type of drug over time. Frequent use of most drugs was not common among the men in Flux.”

About half of respondents who had used ‘party drugs’ said they had done so to enhance sex.

“Behind the voyeuristic media misrepresentation of a dangerous mix of gay men, drugs, and sex, are the lives of thousands of men who party, have fun, and protect their health and wellbeing,” writes UNSW Associate Professor Nadine Ezard in her foreword to the study.

Ezard writes that the study develops a more whole understanding of gay and bisexual men “work together to negotiate pleasure, and what issues concern them around drug use.”

Look out for further stories on this year’s Flux report in the coming days.

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