Association between recreational drug use and sexual practices among people who inject drugs in Southwest China: A cross-sectional study

Shu Su, Lei Zhang, Feng Cheng, Shunxiang Li, Shifu Li, Jun Jing, Christopher Kincaid Fairley, Liang Chen, Jinxian Zhao, Limin Mao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Objective To describe the differences in sexual practices among individuals with various drug administration patterns. Setting A detoxification centre in Southwest China, a part of the Chinese national sentential surveillance network for hepatitis C virus (HCV), HIV and syphilis infections, was recruited. Participants A total of 610 newly enrolled injection drug users (IDUs) from detoxification centre were included during 2015. Primary and secondary outcome measures Self-reported sexual activities, drug-related practices and laboratory-confirmed HCV, HIV and syphilis infection status were collected. Results Of the 610 IDU, 295 (48.4%) used heroin only, 277 (45.4%) poly-drug users reported the mixed use of synthetic drugs (SDs) with heroin and 38 (6.2%) used SDs only. The average daily drug injection frequency for poly-drug users (3.3±1.2 times) was the highest, followed by heroin-only (2.2±0.8 times) and SD-only users (1.2±0.4 time). SD-only drug users reported the highest proportion (86.8%) of engaging in sexual activities in the previous month, with more than half (54.5%) reporting any condomless sex. A higher frequency of daily injecting in heroin-only users was significantly correlated with the less likelihood of sex, condomless sex in the past month, having sex with fixed partners, condomless commercial sex in the previous 12 months (all p<0.01). In poly-drug users, who injected drugs two times per day was associated with the highest proportion of people who engaged in sex and commercial sex (p<0.05). For SD-only users, increased drug use was not associated with reducing sexual risk (p>0.05). Different patterns of HCV, HIV and syphilis infections prevalence rates were shown among the IDU depending on the roles and length of exposure. Conclusions The daily drug injecting frequency of heroin-only and poly-drug users was negatively associated with sexual activities, but SD-only users kept a high frequent engagement in sex. The interventions for relevant diseases should adapt to characteristics of IDU.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere019730
Number of pages8
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2018


  • drug dependence
  • heroin
  • intravenous drug users
  • poly-drug use
  • sexually transmitted infections
  • Synthetic drugs

Cite this