Going somewhere? Practise safe sex while travelling

1 December 2019

Heterosexual men reported the largest increase in HIV notifications in Western Australia this past year – with middle-aged men who acquired the infection overseas, particularly in Southeast Asia, making up the majority of cases.

Going somewhere - STIs

Sexual Health and Blood-borne Disease Program Manager Lisa Bastian said that while the number of HIV notifications in men who have sex with men continues to decrease, cases in heterosexual men are on the rise.

"There have already been more HIV notifications in heterosexual Western Australian men in the first half of 2019 than there was for the entire of 2018," she said.

"Most of these cases were found in middle-aged men who contracted HIV in South East Asia."

The Department of Health is urging all men travelling to Southeast Asia and other regions with a high prevalence of HIV to practise safe sex while they are away.

It is recommended that anyone who has had sex while travelling should see their doctor or sexual health clinic for an STI test.

Ms Bastian said men should also ask their doctors about pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for the prevention of HIV before they travel.

"These men may not be aware of this risk, and they are not practising safe sex or seeking testing and treatment," Ms Bastian said.

"This is of particular concern, not only because of their risk of contracting and spreading HIV, but also for their exposure to other sexually transmissible infections.

"In 2018, the majority of overseas-acquired gonorrhoea and syphilis infections in males were contracted in Southeast Asia."

The Department of Health is running a social marketing campaign that targets heterosexual men travelling to Southeast Asia who may not be aware of the risks.

'Going Somewhere?' is designed to increase awareness and knowledge around HIV risks while travelling, encourage men to talk with a doctor about HIV prevention medication prior to travel, and persuade men to get tested on return to Australia.

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