Developing a new tool for drug and alcohol research

Neither substance use nor sexual behaviour is inherently ‘risky’, but we do know that there is some relationship with transmission of HIV, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and other blood-borne viruses (BBVs). We therefore need to make sure we have a way to effectively measure risk behaviours.

The new SUSI tool will provide a more effective way of measuring risk behaviours compared with tools that are currently in use. SUSI has the potential to support the effective treatment of substance use disorders as well as support effective prevention, treatment and care relating to HIV, STIs and BBVs.


You are invited to take part in this study called the Substance Use and Sex Index (SUSI) Study. The information below tells you about SUSI and what is involved with taking part. Please read this information carefully. Participation in this research is voluntary and anonymous – if you don’t wish to take part, you don’t have to.

If you decide you want to take part, you will be asked to complete and submit an online questionnaire. By submitting the questionnaire, you understand what is involved in the project and consent for your responses to be part of this research. 


What does participation involve?

The questionnaire will ask questions on the sexual activities you have engaged in over the last month including: number and gender identity of sexual partners, drug use, group sex, blood play and condom use. It will also ask questions about your own gender and sexual identity. The questionnaire should take around 5-10 minutes to complete.

There are only two questions you need to answer – your age and Australian state/territory of residence. We ask these to make sure you are eligible for the study. It is completely fine to skip any other questions you don’t want to answer.

We also seek volunteers to repeat the questionnaire in 3-5 days. This helps us assess the reliability of the tool. If you wish to participate, please provide your e-mail address before clicking ‘submit’. You will be e-mailed a link to the follow-up questionnaire in 3 days.

There are no costs associated with participating in this study.

Do I have to take part in this research project?

Participation in any research project is voluntary. If you do not wish to take part, you do not have to. If you decide you do not wish to continue the questionnaire, simply close the web page – we only receive your responses after you click ‘submit’ at the end of the questionnaire. If you have indicated you would be participating in the follow-up questionnaire but later change your mind, you can just ignore the link we send to you by email.


What are the possible benefits of taking part?

From your participation we will create a new assessment tool to be used in research and clinical settings. With your input, we will be able to make sure questions are valid and identify any problems with the tool.

The first 100 participants who repeat the questionnaire will receive a $20 eGift card via e-mail. Note that your e-mail address is in no way linked to questionnaire responses.

What are the possible risks and disadvantages of taking part?

This questionnaire asks about your sexual practices and drug-taking behaviours. You may feel that some of the questions we ask are of a personal or sensitive nature. If you do not wish to answer a question, you may skip it and go to the next question or you may stop immediately.

This study is considered to be of low risk to participants. However, through completing the questionnaire, you may realise that your actual behaviours differ from what you had thought they were or you may identify some things that you might not want to keep doing.

If you are worried about your substance use, we recommend that you talk to a counsellor in your state/territory’s alcohol and drug information service. Information on services is provided under ‘Resources’.

What happens if I change my mind about participating in the study?

You are free to withdraw from the study at any time and you can do so without providing an explanation. If you get part way into the questionnaire and decide not to go any further, just close the questionnaire web page – none of your responses will be submitted to us.

What happens to the information you collect from me during and after the study?

As your participation is anonymous, the information we collect from you cannot be personally identified. All information we collect through this study is stored securely on password-protected servers. The information will only be used for the purposes of research relating to this study.

Data will be retained for 5 years after any reports arising from this study are published. It is anticipated that the results of this study will be published and/or presented in a variety of professional forums.

Who is organising and funding this study?

This study is organised by St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney. Project funding has been received from St Vincent’s Health Australia.

Who has ethically reviewed this study?

All research in Australia involving humans is reviewed by an independent group of people called a Human Research Ethics Committee. The ethical aspects of this study have been approved by St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney Human Research Ethics Committee (reference number: LNR/18/SVH/31) and the ACON Research Ethics Committee (reference number: 2018/02).

Further information and who to contact

The person you may need to contact will depend on the nature of your query. If you want further information concerning this study or if you have any concerns related to your involvement you can contact us by using this form.

If you have any concerns about the way this study is being conducted or any questions about being a research participant in general you can contact the Executive Officer of the approving Human Research Ethics Committee on (02)83824960 or

After reading this information we hope you will be willing to take part in this study. If you wish to proceed, your consent for involvement is implied by submitting the questionnaire. 

Thank-you very much for your time in reading this information sheet.




A/Prof Nadine Ezard
Clinical Director of the Alcohol & Drug Service at St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney

Dr Craig Rodgers
Senior Staff Specialist for the Alcohol & Drug Service at St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney

A/Prof Raimondo Bruno
Associate Professor in Psychology at the University of Tasmania

Mr Brendan Clifford
Research Associate for the Alcohol & Drug Service at St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney and Associate Lecturer at the University of Sydney

Mr Michael Cecilio
Public Health Policy Officer and Researcher

Ms Olivia Leicester
Medical Student at the University of New South Wales


Mr Liam Acheson
Research Officer for the Alcohol & Drug Service at St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney


Research Partners

This study is a collaboration between St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney, the University of New South Wales, the University of Tasmania, Sydney Sexual Health Centre, the AIDS Council of New South Wales (ACON) and Thorne Harbour Health.   


The following organisations can provide free information and support around healthy sex and substance use:

National Alcohol and Other Drug Hotline

Contact this free service for confidential advice about drugs. Community members from anywhere in Australia can call and be directed to the appropriate service within their state. Call 1800 250015

Counselling Online

This free service provides 24/7 online counselling for people concerned about their own drinking or drug use. This service is equally available to people concerned about a family member, relative or friend. Visit

Cracks in the Ice

An online toolkit providing trusted, evidence-based and up-to-date information and resources about crystal methamphetamine (ice) for the Australian community. Visit


Provides information, support and services for LGBTI Australians regarding alcohol and drugs, mental health and sexual health. Visit


A New South Wales based health promotion organisation specialising in HIV prevention, HIV support and LGBTI health. Visit  


Thorne harbour health

Formerly VAC, this organisation promotes the health of the LGBTI community and those living with HIV by providing information, advocacy and support. Visit


For questions or more information about our study please fill in the form below to e-mail directly

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