Travel Health Information Sheets

Sexually transmitted infections and travel – reducing your risk:

Research from the World Health Organization shows that travel is linked to an increased risk of catching sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Unprotected sex, in some parts of the world, especially with high risk groups like commercial sex workers, is more likely to expose you to STIs, including HIV.

The feeling of freedom that often comes with travel may encourage you to take more risks than at home. Alcohol or recreational drug use also make risk-taking behaviour more likely.

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Map courtesy of World Health Organization, 2013

How can I reduce my risk?

Before you go:

Pack condoms

Condoms - are the only contraceptives that protect you from STIs. The quality of condoms available abroad varies greatly, so it’s best to carry your own. If you need to buy condoms abroad, check the expiry date and try to make sure they have a recognised quality kite mark.

Vaccines - Hepatitis A, hepatitis B and some types of genital warts (linked to cervical cancer) can be prevented by vaccines. It’s never too late to ask your GP, travel clinic or sexual health clinic about vaccinations for travel.

Sexual assault:

According to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), sexual assault of female and male travellers whilst abroad is being reported more often. Specific advice for travellers is available on the FCO website at:

While you are away, remember:

STIs can be spread through any sexual contact – oral, vaginal or anal.

People with STIs are often unaware they are infected and can look and feel completely well.

Use a condom every time you have sex.


Photo courtesy of Public Health England:

When you get back:

Get advice from your GP or sexual health clinic if you have had unprotected sex whilst travelling.


More information:

  • Terence Higgins Trust (HIV advice): Travel


Last updated November 2013

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