Backpacker problem in Australia - binge drinking and unprotected sex

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By Candy Lashkari

The tourist season may not be quite as healthy for the locals as it was before. In an eight year old study conducted by the Sydney Sexual Health Care Centre some scary facts have come to light. The study was based on about 5,700 backpackers who belonged mostly to the UK or Ireland and were in their mid twenties.

Binge drinking and unprotected sex are typical party behaviors that the backpackers were found to indulge in, leading to the spread of an alarming number of Sexually Transmitted Diseases. STDs like chlamydia, genital warts and herpes were being spread amongst the local Australian population and triggering an STD crisis.

Of the backpackers studied the females were twice as likely to binge on drinks and the male backpackers three times so. 50% of the males who visited the Center at Sydney mentioned that they had more than 2 sexual partners in the last 3 months and 30% of the women said the same.

10 % of all backpackers surveyed also said that they had indulged in sex in Thailand in the previous year. Also 50% of the backpackers admitted to having sex with a new partner when they travelled to another country.

The promiscuousness did lead to STDs. Especially in light of the information that most backpackers were not prone to using protection. What was worse was that the local population was not using the protection offered by condoms as well.

The backpackers also had a tendency to seek help for the STDs at Australia’s public health clinics as the services were free. However authorities are concerned about the spread of these STDs to the local population.

The research study which is about to be published in the international journal Sexually Transmitted Infections, concluded that, “backpackers should be a priority population for sexual health promotion and access to services

Sex health authorities felt that there was a need to target backpackers to curb the STD crisis that they were generating Down Under. The tourists were passing diseases to the local population and the sex, booze culture was making the problem difficult to tackle.

However it is one of those situations where the only thing that can be done, is spreading awareness. That too has been difficult as schools which took children on trips to sexual health clinics were coming in for a whole lot of criticism.

Dr Dawn Wilkinson of the Imperial College Healthcare Trust, in West London said: "We are trying to demystify the experience for children who may have to visit later in life, and to make the clinic friendly and welcoming. It is important that they know there are services for young people and how to access them, given all the sexually transmitted and infections and teen pregnancies that we see.”

However others felt it was sending a wrong signal to impressionable teenagers that STDs were to be expected and to even maybe rush into sex. Margaret Morrissey of pressure group Parents Outloud, was concerned that, “asking a group of 14 year-olds to an STD clinic not only suggests that casual sex is normal, but will make many teenagers feel under pressure to rush into sexual relationships for which they are not ready. I really worry that yet again we are treating children as mini-adults, and storing up terrible consequences for society.”


  1. Niru Niru United Kingdom says:

    Taking kids to an STD clinic may actually bring home to them that sexual activity is not risk free, and that it is a factor to take into consideration. Peer pressure is more a factor in kids having sex, and will always be. STD clinics provide a "pause and think" factor into this mix. More should be done to keep young people educated and aware.

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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