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Sexually transmitted infection control strategies should target “swingers”

BMJ 2014; 349 doi: (Published 24 October 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;349:g6407
  1. Jacqui Wise
  1. 1London

“Swingers”—heterosexual couples who swap partners or have group sex—have high rates of recreational drug use and sexually transmitted infections, new research has shown.1

Dutch researchers wrote in the journal Sexually Transmitted Infections that swingers should be offered tailored interventions by sexual health services to encourage safer sexual practices and prevent the spread of sexually transmitted infections.

The researchers contacted all visitors to a sexual health clinic in South Limberg in the Netherlands between 2009 and 2012 who identified themselves as swingers—a total of 1023 or 16% of the clinic population. The response rate was 28%, with 289 people completing a self administered questionnaire on their sexual and drug use behaviours over the previous six months. The participants had an average age of 45, and 49% were women.

More than half the participants (of both sexes) had had group sex in the past six months, and half of them did not use condoms. Sexual risk behaviour did not differ between men and women. A quarter of the men had had sex with male partners in the past six months.

Nearly half of both male and female swingers reported using recreational drugs, other than alcohol or erectile dysfunction drugs, while swinging. The top five drugs used were methylenedioxymethamfetamine (“ecstasy”), GHB, laughing gas, cannabis, and alkyl nitrites (“poppers”). Nearly half the participants (46%) reported using multiple drugs.

Overall the prevalence of Chlamydia trachomatis or Neisseria gonorrhoea was 13%. No other sexually transmitted infections were observed. Drug use was independently associated with sexually transmitted infections in female swingers, especially those who practised group sex.

The authors acknowledged several limitations of the study, including the low response rate and self reporting of sexual behaviour and drug use. In addition the study data were collected only from swingers who visited a sexual health clinic.


Cite this as: BMJ 2014;349:g6407


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