December 14, 2009
The aim of the current study was to explore the sexual and risk-taking behavior of British backpackers in Australia and to investigate the influences of substance use and social settings upon sexual behavior abroad.
In hostels in Sydney and Cairns, 1,008 backpackers were recruited for the study, whose design was cross-sectional. A questionnaire solicited information on sexual and substance use behavior both prior to leaving the United Kingdom and while in Australia.
Of participants, 73.2 percent reported having sex in Australia, including 68.9 percent of those who arrived without a partner. The mean number of sexual partners increased from 0.3 per four-week period in the United Kingdom in the 12 months before traveling to 1.0 per four-week period in Australia. Multiple partners were reported by 39.7 percent and by 45.7 percent of those arriving without a partner.
Among respondents who were single and reported having sex, 40.9 percent reported inconsistent condom use, while 24.0 percent said they had unprotected sex with multiple partners. Indicators for risky sex included number of sex partners in the United Kingdom, length of stay in Australia at time of interview, planned duration of stay, frequent visits to bars and clubs, high frequency of alcohol intake and use of illicit substances in Australia.
"Backpackers are at high risk of sexually transmitted infections and other negative sexual health outcomes," the authors concluded. "Multi-agency sexual health promotion strategies that address the relationship between sex, drugs, and alcohol should be targeted at backpackers prior to and during their travels."