Service provision and barriers to care for men who have sex with men engaging in chemsex and sexualised drug use in England

Matthew Peter Hibbert*, Jennifer S. Germain, Caroline E. Brett, Marie Claire Van Hout, Vivian D. Hope, Lorna A. Porcellato

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Background: Chemsex and sexualised drug use (SDU) among men who have sex with men (MSM) has become a public health issue because of its associated sexual risks. Some MSM engaging in SDU require further help and support, but it is not clear if this need is being met. This research seeks to understand MSM and service provider (SP) perspectives of the current standard of service provision for MSM engaging in SDU. Method: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 13 MSM and 16 SPs in England (January-December 2019). MSM who reported taking one of ten substances for sex in the past 12 months were recruited from a mailing list or a community organisation providing chemsex support. Potential SP participants were recruited via an email sent from their local healthcare NHS Trust. Data for MSM and SPs were analysed separately using thematic analysis. Results: MSM participants had a median age of 34 years (range 23–66).The majority of SPs recruited were genitourinary medicine (GUM) consultants. We found that the main reason for engagement in SDU was because of the enhanced sexual experience. Most MSM recruited were satisfied with their sexual health service provision, but barriers to care were highlighted by both MSM and SPs. Four themes relating to barriers to care were identified: accessibility of sexual health services, funding of services, SP's attitudes towards MSM who engage in SDU, and services outside sexual healthcare. Conclusion: SPs appeared to have adopted a harm reduction approach to MSM engaging in SDU, but for MSM wanting further help and assistance in relation to their SDU additional barriers to care existed. Training healthcare providers outside of sexual health services regarding chemsex and SDU may reduce some of these barriers, but funding for sexual health services needs to be improved to maintain and further develop services.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103090
JournalInternational Journal of Drug Policy
Early online date26 Jan 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Chemsex
  • harm reduction
  • men who have sex with men
  • sexual health services
  • sexualised drug use


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