Researchers in Aberdeen have begun a study into the sexual behaviour of trekking guides in one of the world’s fastest growing adventure destinations.
Thousands of trekkers, mountaineers, river rafters and adventurers are among those who visit Nepal every year. As a result tourism - particularly the trekking business - is booming, bringing income and providing employment to thousands of people.
Travellers constitute a well-recognised potentially high risk group for acquiring Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) including HIV/AIDS due to their sexual activity - perhaps caused by lowering of inhibitions - while abroad. There is some tentative evidence that significant sexual interaction between travellers and guides takes place.
Dr Padam Simkhada, a Research Fellow with the University of Aberdeen’s Public Health department, said: “Medical problems and health risks of trekkers or tourists are documented to some extent, but little information is known about the sexual activity of trekkers’ guides.
“There is an urgent need to undertake this study to understand more fully the nature and extent of high-risk sexual activity among young Nepalese trekking guides.
“Condoms are available in Nepal but are viewed by many as culturally and socially taboo.”
Dr Simkhada and Dr Edwin van Teijlingen, also from the University’s Public Health department, in collaboration with the University of Southampton’s Centre for Sexual Health Research and local Non Governmental Organisations in Nepal are carrying out the research.
Around 500 questionnaires containing queries about general as well as sexual health are being distributed to individual trekking guides as well as to the companies which hire them. Researchers are also planning to carry out in-depth interviews with guides.
Dr Simkhada, who is from Nepal, added: “Findings from this study could be very useful for the formation of appropriate public health policies, and could help the Nepalese Government to revise the existing training curriculum and training package for trekking guides.”
The £8,500 funding for the study has come from the DFID (Department for International Development) funded Safe Passages to Adulthood programme, coordinated at the University of Southampton.