Risque British backpackers live riskily Down Under

Tue Oct 20, 2009 8:11pm EDT
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By Rob Taylor

CANBERRA (Reuters) - British backpackers holidaying in Australia are returning home with much more than a suntan, and could be driving the spread Down Under of sexually transmitted diseases with their risky behavior, a study has found.

A survey of more than 1,000 backpackers at hostels in Sydney and the tropical northern mecca of Cairns found that British backpackers often had triple the number of sexual partners they would have normally at home, even if they were not single on arrival.

"Over a third (39.7 percent) had multiple partners in Australia, increasing to 45.7 percent in those arriving single," the study's British and Australian authors said in the October edition of Sexually Transmitted Infections, an international monthly journal on sexual health.

"Of those arriving single and having sex in Australia, 40.9 percent reported inconsistent condom use and 24.0 percent had unprotected sex with multiple partners," said the report.

Around 700,000 Britons visit Australia each year and many of are backpackers, who spend up to a year in the country soaking up the sun and often working to fund their travels.

The study found that among British backpackers arriving in Australia with a partner, almost one fifth had more than one sexual partner while on vacation.

"You're coming out here looking to meet new people and have new lives and you leave the girlfriend at home and meet liberal women," backpacker Liam Ryan, 27, told the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper.

Most of those surveyed for the report by John Moores University in Liverpool and Australia's National Drug and Alcohol Research Center said they regularly used bars and nightclubs, with 60 percent of males and near half the number of females also using illicit drugs.

"Backpackers are at high risk of sexually transmitted infections and other negative sexual health outcomes," the report concluded, calling for better efforts to target backpacker behavior "prior to, and during, their travels." (Editing by Jonathan Standing)