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Sex, drugs and social connectedness: wellbeing among HIV-positive gay and bisexual men who use party-and-play drugs

Jennifer Power , Gosia Mikolajczak , Adam Bourne , Graham Brown , William Leonard , Anthony Lyons , Gary Dowsett , Jayne Lucke


Background This paper explores associations between use of party-and-play drugs, including crystal methamphetamine, and wellbeing among gay and bisexual men (GBM) in Australia who are living with HIV. Research shows GBM are more likely to use party-and-play drugs in a social or sex-based setting. We consider whether use of drugs in these settings facilitates access to social and support networks, which may in turn may support wellbeing. Methods A cross-sectional survey of Australian people living with HIV (PLHIV) was conducted. Participants were recruited via convenience sampling. There were 714 participants (79.7%) who identified as GBM. Differences between party-and-play drug users and non-users were examined using bivariate and multinomial logistic regressions. Mediation analysis was undertaken to examine the indirect effect of drug use on wellbeing via social connectedness and support. Results Approximately one in three participants (29.7%) reported party-and-play drug use within the past 12 months, although only 5% reported regular use. There were no differences between users and non-users on self-reported measures of general health, wellbeing or general social support. Compared with non-users, party-and-play drug users reported higher levels of resilience and lower levels of perceived HIV-related stigma. They were also more likely than non-users to spend time with LGBT friends or other PLHIV, and reported receiving more support from other PLHIV. Greater social connectedness, in turn, was associated with greater resilience and lower perceived stigma. Conclusions While party-and-play drug use poses risks to the health of GBM, the social contexts in which these drugs are used may provide wellbeing benefits, particularly for HIV-positive GBM who may be subject to HIV-related stigma in other settings. As these data were cross sectional, it was not possible to tell if drug-use facilitated access to social networks or if people with more active social ties were more likely to engage in drug use. Further research on this is recommended.

SH17151  Accepted 05 December 2017

© CSIRO 2017