A paper published this week in the British Medical Journal says that young holidaymaker's traveling overseas face serious health issues from casual sex, and even goes as far as to suggest that some could be at risk of death. The paper also highlights a lack of advice and sexually transmitted infections (STI) screening upon return home.
Types of STIs are chlamydia, gonorrhea, trichomona, pubic lice and scabies, genital herpes, genital warts (HPV), hepatitis B, syphilis and last but no means least HIV/AIDS.
STIs cause a wide range of illnesses and are a significant cause of long term and serious disability in the UK.
In the UK, STIs are on the rise, making any casual sexual encounter potentially hazardous. Travel brochures carry minimal advice on safe sex (3%) and preventative measures do not go far enough. Even more worrying, says the author, "is tour operators' encouragement of sex with partners by presenting prizes."
The review paper, by Sheffield consultant Dr Karen Rogstad, showed that in one study of holidaymaker's attending a genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinic within three months of 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.
Tenerife in the Canary Islands stands out as the casual sex hotspot with another study showing 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.
Travelers 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 UK who acquired HIV from heterosexual sex were infected while abroad.
With such high rates of infection more widespread education is vital, says Dr Rogstad. Preventative advice should be offered to all holidaymaker's, particularly those going to the developing world. Young people should be encouraged to seek health screening on return from holiday, and secondary prophylaxis (taken soon after exposure to reduce the risk of an infection taking hold) for HIV and Hepatitis B should be considered in certain circumstances.
The birth control pill protects against pregnancy, not STI. Young people owe it to themselves to learn about STIs and how to lower the chances of becoming infected.