Methods: We conducted a secondary analysis of self-reported data from a NIDA-funded HIV prevention trial including 899 adult cisgender MSM in Kazakhstan who completed structured screening interviews. Measures used in these analyses include sociodemographic information, age of sexual debut, and lifetime and recent reports of substance use behaviors. Logistic regression models were used to estimate associations between early sexual debut (ages 16 and older as the reference group) and lifetime and recent substance use, with covariance adjustment for sociodemographic characteristics.
Results: The majority of Kazakhstani MSM in our sample reported lifetime binge drinking behavior (72%) and illicit use of drugs (64%). Participants with an early sexual debut before 13 years old had significantly higher odds of lifetime binge drinking and any illicit use of drugs (aOR= 2.3, 95%CI: 1.2-4.5; aOR=3.1, 95%CI: 1.6-5.9). MSM who reported an early sexual debut between 13-15 years old had significantly higher odds of lifetime binge-drinking and illicit use of any drugs (aOR=1.5, 95%CI: 1.1-2.3; aOR=1.6, 95%CI: 1.1-2.3); as well as recent binge-drinking behavior (aOR=1.6, 95%CI: 1.2-2.2). Additional significant associations were found between early sexual debut and specific types of drugs (e.g. marijuana, heroin, stimulants).
Conclusions and Implications: Findings suggest that early sexual debut is a significant risk factor for lifetime and recent substance use behaviors among MSM in Kazakhstan. Future research should examine pathways between consensual and non-consensual early sexual experiences and risky substance use behaviors among sexually diverse populations. Early sexual experiences during childhood and adolescence may be relevant contextual information for interventions aimed at substance use risk prevention, treatment, and recovery among MSM populations.