A 2013 study by Public Health England stated ‘Men who inject anabolic steroids (AS) and tanning drugs are at higher risk of HIV and viral hepatitis’. Injectors of AS are now the biggest client group at many needle and syringe programmes in the UK. The British Crime Survey on AS use among 16–59 year olds in England and Wales found in 2009/2010 0.7% had ever used and 0.2% had used in the last year. There have been no studies looking specifically at prevalence in sexual health clinic attendees and we wondered whether this might represent a different population.Methods
All male attendees to the sexual health clinic were invited to participate in the survey by self-completing an anonymous questionnaire about use of anabolic steroids, basic demographic details and details of known pre-existing blood borne virus infections.Results
96 respondents. Age range: 3% <18, 55% 18–25, 42% >25. 82% self-identified as heterosexual. Only 1 patient admitted to having known HIV infection, none to hepatitis and 5 individuals opted not to answer this question. 4.1% admitted previous use of anabolic steroids. All were heterosexual, had injected and had used within the last year.Discussion
The use of image and performance enhancing drugs has grown substantially, but the risk of exposure to blood borne viruses among those who inject drugs to change body appearance or improve performance has rarely been studied. Although small numbers, our survey identified higher than anticipated use of injected anabolic steroids in males attending our sexual health service.