Tak­ing risks on sex­ual li­aisons

Weekend Gold Coast Bulletin - - NEWS - DANIEL BATE­MAN

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.

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