Gay people on party drugs and having sex orgies are reportedly fueling a surge in HIV infections in London.
According to The Lancet medical journal, figures show a rise of 21% of HIV infections among gay and bisexual men in London between 2011 and 2012.
In London alone there were 1,720 new infections, with that figure likely to be revised up to nearly 2,000.
Authors Tony Kirby and Michelle Thornber-Dunwell blame the percentage increase on post-club ‘chill-out’ drug-taking parties.
They say many men in the British capital have gatherings where ‘drug-taking continues until drugs, money, energy, or all three run out’.
‘There are also many sex parties where MSM (men who have sex with men) congregate at homes for group sex,’ they add, with participants offering have multiple partners, sometimes over several days, and do not use condoms.
Rises in HIV among gay and bisexual men have also been observed in cities with a vibrant gay scene, such as San Francisco and Sydney.
Yusef Azad, director of policy and campaigns at the National Aids Trust said, on average, five gay men in London are diagnosed with HIV every day.
‘This is one of the most serious public health issues we face in the UK and it must be treated as a public health priority,’ he said.
Lisa Power, Policy Director for HIV charity Terrence Higgins Trust, said: ‘Partly these numbers represent greater testing amongst gay men most at risk, which is a positive thing.
‘But there is a need for a greater focus within London HIV prevention work on helping gay men who are encountering difficulties with drugs and safer sex and also on encouraging others to avoid these problems and resist peer pressure.
‘Doing more relies on investment by London’s local authorities. While there are some face-to-face services funded, there is currently no London funding for online or printed materials to inform gay men of the dangers they face and counter the emerging community norms of using drugs for sex.
‘We know that HIV prevention measures can work. Only by investing in promoting testing, encouraging condom use, and supporting those who are at high risk, will we start to see the numbers fall again.’
Patrick Strudwick, a gay journalist and columnist for The Independent, described The Lancet article as a ‘scaremongering’ story.
Popular gay lifestyle blog The Guyliner agreed, saying the rise for HIV infections was certainly not restricted to a dirty club in Vauxhall.
He said: ‘Until we start speaking like HIV is everybody’s problem, and not an issue restricted to sex addicts brutalizing each other in saunas while coked out of their domes, we’re never going to get the message across.
‘It’s a real problem that can happen to almost anyone, promiscuous or not. It does, after all, only take once.’