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26 July 2004
Holidays Abroad Lead To Risky Sex And STDs
by George Atkinson

Young people on holiday face death and serious health problems from risky sexual behaviour abroad, while they receive little preventative advice or appropriate screening on return, according to a survey appearing in the British Medical Journal.

In the UK, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are on the rise yet travel brochures carry little advice on safe sex. Even more worrying, says Dr Karen Rogstad, author of the research, is the encouragement by some tour operators of sex with partners by presenting prizes.

The research showed that in one study of holidaymakers attending a genitourinary medicine clinic upon their return home, a quarter had slept with a new partner while away, and two thirds had not used condoms, or had used them haphazardly. A separate study of holidaymakers in Tenerife showed that 50 per cent of those aged 25 or younger had had sex with someone new while on holiday, compared to 22 per cent of those over 25.

Travellers to developing countries are additionally at risk of tropical infections, such as syphilis, which is also now a major problem in countries of the former Soviet bloc. HIV infection rates are also on the increase at home and abroad, and the risk is increased in areas of high prevalence, such as sub-Sarahan Africa, the Far East and, more recently, India, Latin America, and the Caribbean. Between 2000 and 2002, 69 per cent of men in the United Kingdom who acquired HIV from heterosexual sex were infected while abroad.

With such high rates of infection, education is vital, says Dr Rogstad. Preventative advice should be offered to all holidaymakers, particularly those going to the developing world and young people should be encouraged to seek health screening on return from holiday.

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