Russia: Harm Reductionists Launch Chemsex Program in Moscow

A new Russian harm reduction program for Muscovites engaging in chemsex is getting started in a country known for skyrocketing rates of new HIV infection, as well as pervasive prohibitionist and queerphobic policy. “Chemsex” refers to the use of drugs—particularly crystal methamphetamine, mephedrone and GBL/GHB—during sex, often in the context of queer sex parties or meet-ups facilitated by digital media platforms like Grindr.

On January 31, the Andrey Rylkov Foundation for Health and Social Justice (ARF) announced that it will: deepen collaborations with the queer community by offering more chemsex-related events; create chemsex harm reduction publications, organize a “self-help group,” and recommit resources to its safer sex supplies program. That program currently provides STI testing and self-tests, condoms, counseling, and sexual health literature at gay techno events.

ARF is responding to booming chemsex-related drug use in the Russian queer community, with around 8 percent of men who have sex with men (MSM) in Russia and Ukraine practicing chemsex, according to a 2017 study by Ukranian LGBT organization ALLIANCE.GLOBAL.

The spread of chemsex in Russia is “associated with the emergence of new and affordable drugs and with the development of technologies for their purchase,” ARF outreach worker Maxim Malyshev tells Filter. 

HIV infection is among one of the major harms associated with chemsex. In Moscow, 20 percent more new infections were detected in 2017 than in 2016, and Russia is experiencing one of the fastest-growing waves of new HIV infection in the world. But as Malyshev notes, “Repressive drug policies and the imposition of moral values serve to radicalize the[se] negative effects of chemsex.” Read more via Filter