Passport, Phone, Plane tickets and….. PrEP!
Planning your next trip – for business or pleasure, or both? Apart from the usual, do you make plans for your own sexual health?
Whether you’re straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or just curious and questioning, lots of people have casual sex when they travel, so you’re not alone.
However, lots of research and experience show that the risk of developing a sexually transmitted infection (STI) – like HIV, syphilis or others – is increased when you travel. 1
This could be due to increased risk-taking behaviour when we travel abroad. The reasons may include increased freedom, alcohol and drug use, loneliness, peer pressure or a general sexual lifestyle when you’re abroad.2
Of course, there are those who travel abroad specifically for sex, in what some call “Sex Tourism”, which is the intention of travel overseas to purchase sex. This usually involves travelling to neighbouring countries to purchase sex from commercial sex workers.
Whatever your reasons for travel, if you’re unprepared for sex you may be putting yourself at risk and participate in behaviours that you wouldn’t consider at home.3
So how? Top tips for your Sexual Health Risk Reduction (T.R.A.V.E.L)
T for Testing & treatment of STIs
- Please get tested prior to travel as blisters, ulcers, bumps provide an entry point for STIs into the body. Having an STI increases the risk of HIV transmission by 10 fold!
- Periodic STD Screening & Anonymous HIV Testing can keep your status in check
- Don’t assume your partner is STD-free because s/he doesn’t mention it and, STDs are often asymptomatic. Talk openly with him or her about your STD and HIV status and date of the last testing3
R for Rubbers & Lube
- Unprotected (without a condom) sex with a new/casual partner carries a risk of contracting STIs or blood-borne viruses.
- Stock up on condoms and lube, keep them in a cool place, practice using them and get confident in talking about using them before you go.
A for Alcohol & Drug Use
- Be careful when having sex after alcohol use. With alcohol or other drugs, one is more likely to take risks: not using a condom, having sex with someone you normally wouldn’t have sex with. We encourage condoms to be used for all forms of sexual activity especially with new/casual partners.
*Note: We do not support illicit drug use and urge our readers to abide by the host country’s drug laws. Singapore has strict anti-drug laws. Any citizen or permanent resident found to have abused controlled drugs overseas will be treated as if he or she had abused drugs in Singapore. Furthermore, possession, consumption, manufacturing, import, export, or trafficking of controlled drugs in any amount are illegal.
V for Vaccinations
- Discuss with our DTAP team the risk of infections, STIs and Blood Borne Viruses and any vaccines that are available (plan ahead as some vaccinations may take up to 6 months for full immunity). The vaccines that we recommend are the HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine, also known as Gardasil 9, Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B vaccination.
E for Education
- Empower yourself with information where sex may be available, at your travel destination.4
- Ensure you are vaccinated against Hepatitis B, carry and use kite-marked condoms, consider taking oral HIV PrEP (Pre-exposure Prophylaxis) prior.
L for Living and travelling with HIV
- If you are travelling with a partner who has HIV, consider taking oral PrEP as a precaution Learn more about Travelling Tips with People Living with HIV
Get tested after you return and last but not least, consider PrEP before you travel! Learn more about Travelling with HIV PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis)
Safe Trip and Have Fun!
This article was written by Dr Tan & Partners, in collaboration with Oogachaga.
- Vivancos R, Abubakar I, Hunter PR. Foreign travel, casual sex, and sexually transmitted infections: systematic review and meta-analysis. International Journal of Infectious Diseases. 2010;14(10):e842–51.
- Svensson P.,et al. A meta-analysis and systematic literature review of factors associated with sexual risk-taking during international travel. Travel Medicine and Infectious Disease. 2018; Jul – Aug;24:65-88
- Riddell Jt, Amico KR, Mayer KH. HIV Preexposure Prophylaxis: A Review. Jama. 2018;319(12):1261-8.
- WHO Guidelines Approved by the Guidelines Review Committee. Guideline on When to Start Antiretroviral Therapy and on Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis for HIV. Geneva: World Health Organization Copyright (c) World Health Organization 2015.; 2015.
- Elsesser SA, Oldenburg CE, Biello KB, Mimiaga MJ, Safren SA, Egan JE, et al. Seasons of Risk: Anticipated Behavior on Vacation and Interest in Episodic Antiretroviral Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) Among a Large National Sample of U.S. Men Who have Sex with Men (MSM). AIDS and behavior. 2016;20(7):1400-7.
- Brett-Major DM, Scott PT, Crowell TA, Polyak CS, Modjarrad K, Robb ML, et al. Are you PEPped and PrEPped for travel? Risk mitigation of HIV infection for travelers. Tropical diseases, travel medicine and vaccines. 2016;2:25
- Hampel B, Reinacher M, Fehr JS, HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP): Is it time to rethink HIV prevention in travelers?, Travel Medicine and Infectious Disease (2018), doi: 10.1016/j.tmaid.2018.06.008