Taking risks on sexual liaisons
MOST foreign backpackers flock to Queensland to get lucky with multiple partners – but one in four says they never use a condom.
A joint study between James Cook University and the Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service has shed light on the sexual behaviours of foreign travellers visiting the region and their risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
The study, published last month, examined the prevalence of the STI Mycoplasma genitalium, and a common cause of non-gonoccal urethritis.
Mycoplasma genitalium is a bacteria that infects the mucous membranes of the urethra, cervix and anus, and can cause genital pain and inflammation.
There has been global concern about increased rates of the bacteria, with international backpackers likely to be at risk of STIs.
Researchers surveyed nearly 300 foreigners staying a several hostels across Cairns about their sexual behaviours, and gathered samples to check for Mycoplasma genitalium.
While they found only 1.8 per cent tested positive for the bacteria, the survey results confirmed many backpackers were engaged in risky sexual behaviour.
The survey revealed 91.9 per cent of participants had arrived in the Far North without partners, and that 61 per cent engaged in sex with two or more partners while in the city.
The survey also revealed 26.4 per cent confessed to never using condoms with new Mycoplasma genitalium (MG) is a bacterium that infects the urethra, cervix and anus. It is sexually transmitted by unprotected vaginal and anal sex. People infected with MG often don’t have any symptoms. However if symptoms do present in men, they include pain on passing urine, and a discharge from the penis. In women, symptoms include lower abdominal pain, pain during sex, abnormal vaginal discharge, pain on passing urine, and abnormal vaginal bleeding.
MG is treated with two courses of antibiotics, however health experts are concerned that the little-known bacterium is becoming resistant to antibiotics. The best protection against the bacteria is using condoms during sex.
sexual partners while in Australia.
Lead researcher Thomas Trevis said the survey results were not surprising.
“I don’t think I was surprised at all. I think most people know that backpackers engage in sex a lot more than people who aren’t travelling, and engage in riskier sex lives as well,” he said.
“But now rather than just thinking it, we know it.”
The survey included participants predominantly from Europe and the UK.
Mr Trevis hoped the findings would help raise awareness of the need for safe sex.
“I think hostels have a role to play in terms of educating people about the risks of unprotected sex,” he said.