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The behaviour and sexual health of young international travellers (backpackers) in Australia
  1. A M McNulty1,2,
  2. C Egan3,
  3. H Wand4,
  4. B Donovan1,4
  1. 1Sydney Sexual Health Centre, Sydney Hospital, Sydney, NSW, Australia
  2. 2School of Public Health and Community Medicine, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW, Australia
  3. 3National Centre in HIV Social Research, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW, Australia
  4. 4National Centre in HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Dr Anna McNulty, Sydney Sexual Health Centre, PO Box 614, Sydney, NSW 2001, Australia; anna.mcnulty{at}


Objectives To study the demographics, risk behaviours and morbidity of young long-term international travellers (backpackers) attending a sexual health service in Sydney, Australia.

Methods Data on new patients were extracted from the Sydney Sexual Health Centre database for the period 1998 to 2006. The sexual risk behaviours and morbidity of the backpackers were compared with other patients of a similar age.

Results The 5698 backpackers who attended the centre reported higher numbers of sexual partners (three or more partners in the past 3 months, 18% vs 12%, p<0.001) and a greater proportion drank alcohol at hazardous levels (22%) than the comparison group (9%, p<0.001). Rates of consistent (100%) condom use in the past 3 months were low in both backpackers (22%) and the comparison population (19%). Backpackers had higher rates of genital chlamydia infection (7% vs 5%, p<0.001) and reported higher rates of previous sexually transmitted infections (15% vs 10%, p<0.001).

Conclusions Backpackers should be a priority population for sexual health promotion and access to services.

  • Alcohol
  • sexually transmitted infections
  • sexual health
  • travel
  • travellers

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  • Competing interests None.

  • Ethics approval This study was conducted with the approval of the South Eastern Sydney Illawarra Area Health Service Ethics Committee.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.