Publications & Reports

Does sexuality matter? A cross-sectional study of drug use, social injecting, and access to injection-specific care among men who inject drugs in Melbourne, Australia.

Schroeder SE, Wilkinson AL, O'Keefe D, Bourne A, Doyle JS, Hellard M, Dietze P, Pedrana A
Disease Elimination Program, Burnet Institute, 85 Commercial Road, Melbourne, 3004, Australia. [email protected]


BACKGROUND: Gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (GBMSM) are overrepresented in cohorts of people who inject drugs. GBMSM’s substance use is usually explored in the context of its contribution to sexual risk. We examined drug use practices, connectedness to other people who inject drugs, peer-to-peer injecting, and access to care among men who inject drugs in Melbourne, Australia. We aim to describe similarities and differences in these parameters for GBMSM and other men. METHODS: Data were drawn from a prospective cohort study of people who inject drugs conducted in Melbourne, Australia, since 2009. This cross-sectional study used data collected between 2016 and 2021. Descriptive statistics were used to assess differences between GBMSM and other men. RESULTS: Of 525 men who injected drugs over the study period, 48 (9%) identified as gay or bisexual, or reported sex with other men in the past 12 months. GBMSM and other men reported similar socio-demographics, drug practices (age of injecting initiation, most injected drug, peer-to-peer injecting, receptive syringe sharing) and access to injecting-specific care (drug treatment, source of needle-syringes). A significantly greater percentage of GBMSM reported past 12-month hepatitis C testing (69% vs. 52%, p = 0.028) and preferring methamphetamine (31% vs. 16%, p = 0.022). A higher percentage of GBMSM reported knowing > 50 other people who inject drugs (46% vs. 37%), but this difference was not statistically significant. Both groups primarily obtained injecting equipment from needle-syringe programs; a minority had accessed injecting-specific primary care. CONCLUSION: Men who injected drugs in this cohort and those who identified as GBMSM reported similar drug and health-seeking practices. The higher prevalence of methamphetamine injecting among GBMSM may warrant different harm reduction support for this group. Health promotion should utilise opportunities to connect men who inject drugs in Melbourne to injecting-specific primary health care.

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