Chemsex among gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men in Singapore and the challenges ahead: a qualitative study

Tan, Rayner Kay Jin, Wong, Christina Misa, Chen, Mark I-Cheng, Chan, Yin Ying, Bin Ibrahim, Muhamad Alif, Lim, Oliver Zikai, Chio, Martin Tze-Wei, Wong, Chen Seong, Chan, Roy Kum Wah, Chua, Lynette J., and Choong, Bryan Chee Hong (2018) Chemsex among gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men in Singapore and the challenges ahead: a qualitative study. International Journal of Drug Policy, 61. pp. 31-37.

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Abstract

Background: Sexualised substance use, or 'chemsex' has been shown to be a major factor driving the syndemic of HIV/AIDS in communities of gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (GBMSM) around the world. However, there is a paucity of research on chemsex among GBMSM in Singapore due to punitive drug laws and the criminalisation of sexual behaviour between men. This qualitative descriptive study is the first to explore perceptions towards, motivators to engaging in, and the barriers to addressing the harms associated with chemsex among GBMSM in Singapore.

Methods: We conducted 30 semi-structured in-depth interviews with self-identifying GBMSM between the ages of 18–39 in Singapore following a purposive sampling strategy. Interview topics included participants' perceptions of drug use among GBMSM in Singapore, perceptions towards chemsex, reasons for drug use and chemsex, and recommendations to address the harms associated with chemsex in Singapore. Interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed, coded, and analysed using thematic analysis.

Results: Participants reported that it was common to encounter chemsex among GBMSM in Singapore as it could be easily accessed or initiated using social networking phone apps. Enhancement and prolongation of sexual experiences, fear of rejection from sexual partners and peers, and its use as a means of coping with societal rejection were three main reasons cited for engaging in chemsex. The impact of punitive drug laws on disclosure and stigmatisation of GBMSM who use drugs were reported to be key barriers towards addressing chemsex. Participants suggested using gay-specific commercial venues as avenues for awareness and educational campaigns, and social media to reach out to younger GBMSM.

Conclusions: This study highlights the complexities behind chemsex use among GBMSM in Singapore, and the range of individual to institutional factors to be addressed. We recommend that community-based organisations and policy-makers find ways to destigmatise discussion of chemsex and provide safe spaces to seek help for drug use.

Item ID: 69787
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1873-4758
Keywords: Drug use, Sexualised drug use, Men who have sex with men, Drug policy, Singapore, HIV prevention, Qualitative, MSM
Copyright Information: © 2018 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier B.V. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/BY-NC-ND/4.0/).
Funders: Ministry of Education Academic Research Fund
Projects and Grants: AcRF Tier 1 research grant [R-608-000-072-112]
Date Deposited: 24 Nov 2021 03:29
FoR Codes: 32 BIOMEDICAL AND CLINICAL SCIENCES > 3202 Clinical sciences > 320211 Infectious diseases @ 50%
42 HEALTH SCIENCES > 4206 Public health > 420606 Social determinants of health @ 50%
SEO Codes: 20 HEALTH > 2004 Public health (excl. specific population health) > 200401 Behaviour and health @ 50%
20 HEALTH > 2002 Evaluation of health and support services > 200207 Social structure and health @ 50%
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