Young British Travelers Often Engage in Unprotected Sex While Abroad, Should Be Tested for STDs Upon Return, Study Says
Young people from the United Kingdom traveling abroad on vacation frequently have unprotected sexual encounters with new partners and should be tested for sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV, when they return, according to a study published in the July 24 issue of BMJ, London's Independent reports (Laurance, Independent, 7/23). Karen Rogstad, a consultant in the STD department of the Royal Hallamshire Hospital, conducted a literature review and evaluated information available to vacationers. More than 30 million British citizens travel overseas annually, up 27% since 1997, the study says. According to Rogstad, vacations provide opportunities for "increased sexual mixing" (Rogstad, BMJ, 7/24). According to one of the reviewed studies, 25% of vacationers who attended an STD clinic within three months of returning to the United Kingdom reported having sex with a new partner. Two-thirds said they had not used condoms or had used them "haphazardly," according to BBC News. In addition, one-fifth of heterosexual men diagnosed with syphilis acquired the disease abroad, and 9% of people infected with gonorrhea reported having sexual intercourse overseas in the preceding three months. Twelve percent of STDs reported at a London clinic were contracted while abroad (BBC News, 7/23). In addition, more than 66% of heterosexual men and 25% of HIV-positive women in the country contracted the disease while abroad. Rogstad said that the rate at which partners are changed, lack of condom use and alcohol consumption all contribute to the "explosion" of STDs reported in the United Kingdom, according to the Independent.
Other Information, Recommendations
Although half of vacationers younger than age 25 and 22% over age 25 reported having sex with a new partner in one study, Rogstad said that sex tourists -- people who travel long distances with the intention of having sexual intercourse -- "run the ultimate risk." According to a study of male German sex tourists in Thailand, only 30% to 40% used condoms because they regarded their Thai sexual partners as girlfriends rather than commercial sex workers (Independent, 7/23). Rogstad said that young people returning from vacations should be encouraged to get tested for STDs. Doctors also should ask patients who report STD symptoms if they or their sexual partners have recently traveled abroad, Rogstad said, according to London's Guardian. Doctors also should inform patients before traveling of the risks associated with unprotected sexual contact (Boseley, Guardian, 7/23). Travel advice "should include information on safer sex and the risks of sex abroad," Rogstad writes, adding that as more vacations are booked online and by phone, "providers of such services must look at ways of supplying advice on the risks of holiday sex" (Rogstad, BMJ, 7/24).