Gay Men Said To Take
AIDS Risks At 'Circuit Parties'
By Merritt McKinney

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Gay men are more likely to use recreational drugs and have risky sex when they attend weekend dance events called "circuit parties'' far from home, study results indicate.
The findings suggest a need for special HIV prevention strategies that are targeted toward men who attend circuit parties, according to the study's authors.
"Circuit parties are an important and often positive influence on the gay community,'' Dr. Grant N. Colfax of the San Francisco Department of Public Health, told Reuters Health.
"The point of the article was not to demonize them,'' according to Colfax, the lead author of the study published in the December 1st issue of the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes.
He noted that after taking into account drug use, attendance at circuit parties itself was not linked to high-risk sexual behavior.
But, Colfax said, "a substantial proportion of circuit-party participants report high-risk HIV-transmitting behaviors, often in relation to substance abuse.''
He and his colleagues surveyed nearly 300 gay and bisexual men in the San Francisco area. The men answered questions about their drug use and sexual activity during the weekend of a circuit party in San Francisco, an out-of-town circuit party weekend, and two weekends spent in San Francisco without attending a circuit party.
Most of the men reported using at least one recreational drug when attending an out-of-town circuit party, Colfax and his colleagues report, with 80% taking Ecstasy, 66% taking ketamine, 43% crystal methamphetamines, 29% the so-called ''liquid Ecstasy'' GHB, 14% taking the impotence drug Viagra, and 12% taking amyl nitrates, also known as "poppers.''
At San Francisco circuit parties, however, the men used certain drugs, including ketamine and crystal meth, less frequently than when out of town. And they were significantly less likely to use drugs--with the exception of alcohol--during weekends in San Francisco when they went to a dance club instead of a circuit party. On weekends when men did not go out to a club or a party, most did not use any drugs, the researchers found.
As was the case for drug use, risky sex was most common at out-of-town circuit parties, where 21% of HIV-positive men and 9% of HIV-negative men had anal sex without a condom with a partner whose HIV status was unknown or different from their own.
Colfax's team suggests several possible reasons why men are more likely to have risky sex at out-of-town circuit parties. Increased drug use may contribute, as may the anonymity possible at an out-of-town party. In addition, the availability of new sexual partners at an out-of-town party, as well as an absence of regular partners, may lead some men to have unsafe sex, the authors report.
"There needs to be a greater focus within the public health community on the high prevalence of club drug use in relation to high-risk sexual behavior,'' according to Colfax.
And since Viagra was frequently used by men at circuit parties, "physicians should provide safer sex messages'' whenever prescribing the drug, he noted.
SOURCE: Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes 2001;28:373-379.

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