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Sexual liaisons on overseas trips linked with raised STI risk

Sexual health

Sexual health

Having new sexual partners while travelling abroad is associated with a higher risk sexual lifestyle and an increased risk of STIs.

Almost 11,000 people (4,590 men, 6,260 women) were interviewed, in a subset of the 2000 National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles survey. This is a stratified probability sample survey of the general population aged 16-44 years, resident in Britain.

Among sexually active participants, 13.9% of men and 7.1% of women reported having sexual activity with new partner(s) while overseas in the past five years; men reported a mean of 3.6 partners (95% CI 1-13), compared with 1.9 (95% CI 1-5) for women.

The likelihood of reporting sex abroad with a new partner was significantly associated with younger age; non-married status; ethnicity (women only); residence in London; higher reported numbers of sex partners; reporting same-sex partners; paying for sex (men only); reporting STI diagnoses and HIV testing.

Sexual partnerships abroad are typically with residents from the UK or other European countries.

Generally, those who have new partners abroad are likely to have higher-risk sexual lifestyles and to be at increased risk of STIs.

For GPs, this study reinforces the message that discussions about travel health should always include sexual health promotion, particularly with younger travellers.

Mercer CH, Fenton KA, Wellings K et al. Sex partner acquisition while overseas: results from a British national probability survey. Sex Transm Inf 2007;83:517-22


Dr Richard Ma
GP principal, North London and staff grade in sexual and reproductive health, Margaret Pyke Centre, London

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