This study examines the possible association between the stimulant khat and risky sexual behaviour that might aggravate the spread of HIV. A community-based cross-sectional survey involving 4 000 individuals and focus group discussions were conducted to assess the attitudes and perceptions of an Ethiopian population towards the habit of khat-chewing and its possible association with risky sexual behaviour. All participants in the focus group discussions and 38% of the survey respondents were of the opinion that behaviours associated with the mild narcotic effects of khat are conducive to casual sex, and hence constitute an increased risk for contracting and spreading HIV. A significant shift towards casual sex practices was observed in response to the effects induced by the substance, and a strong association was observed between khat-chewing, indulgence in alcohol and recourse to risky sexual behaviours. There was no significant difference in the use or non-use of condoms among those male chewers who admitted resorting to casual sex after khat-chewing. We suggest that HIV/AIDS programmes in certain regions should address the habitual use of khat and other substances of potential abuse as part of their intervention efforts to curb the epidemic.
Keywords: alcohol, amphetamine, cathinone, drug use, khat, psychotropic drugs
African Journal of AIDS Research 2006, 5(1): 61–69