Healthy Sexuality and Travel
It’s easy to get caught up in the exhilaration of a holiday romance. The combination of sun, sand, cheap
STIs can be spread through any type of sex, including vaginal, anal and oral. STIs are some of the most common infections worldwide. Common STIs include HIV, chlamydia, hepatitis B and C, syphilis, HPV, and gonorrhea. STIs caused by bacteria can be treated, while those caused by viruses cannot be cured. Some STIs don’t cause any symptoms, so it’s possible for you or your partner to be infected without knowing it. For more information about STIs visit HealthLinkBC:
An important component of travel planning is to take responsibility of your sexual health to prevent STIs and unplanned pregnancy. Below are some important considerations to promote healthy sexuality for travellers.
Consider getting vaccinated for hepatitis B and HPV. These are the only vaccine preventable STIs.
Practice Safer Sex
Always use condoms or other barriers to prevent the spread of STIs during vaginal, oral, and anal sex. Condoms may not be readily availableor up to quality standards in many countries, so it is important to bring your own supply from home, whether you intend to have sex or not. Remember that condoms can lose their effectiveness if stored in a warm place so avoid exposing them to direct sunlight and extreme temperatures (do not keep in your wallet!) and remember to check the expiry date before use.
Get Tested Before You Travel
As some STIs don’t cause any symptoms it is possible to have an STI and not know it. Getting tested before you travel ensures you won’t spread an STI to a sexual partner. It will also ensure that you don’t have any unpleasant symptoms beginning while on your travels.
Limit Drug and Alcohol Intake
Be cautious when using drugs or alcohol as this can impair your judgement and increase your likelihood of engaging in risky behaviours including unprotected sex.
Prevent Unplanned Pregnancy
There are many birth control options to suit different lifestyles and budgets. Some examples include oral contraceptives (“the pill”), hormonal patch, nuvaring, IUD, and barrier methods. Talk to your health care provider before your trip to determine the type that will best suit your lifestyle and test out your birth control for 1-2 months before travel. Remember to pack enough contraceptives to last your entire trip. Condoms can break so if using a barrier method alone you may want to consider bringing emergency contraceptive, also known as “the morning after pill.” Plan B or Next Choice is an emergency contraceptive that can help prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex or failed birth control that can be purchased in most drugstores in Canada. Depending where you are travelling it may be difficult to getan emergency contraceptive abroad, so it is better to bring it from home. For more information about contraception options and emergency contraceptive visit HealthLinkBC:
Cultural Attitudes Toward Sexual Health
Some countries’ customs and laws largely differ from those in Canada in respect to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and two-spirit (LGBTQ2). Most LGBTQ2 Canadians don’t have any problems when they travel, but it is important to research your destination country in advance and be aware of cultural attitudes and local laws. For more information about LGBTQ and travel visit the Government of Canada website:
Preventing Sexual Assault
Sexual assault can happen anywhere, and in some countries foreigners are targeted. Remember that consent to engage in sexual activity is essential and can be withdrawn at any time. For tips to prevent sexual assault while travelling and what to do if you experience it visit the Government of Canada website:
Sex tourism refers to travel with the specific purpose of having sex. It is a lucrative and exploitive industry worldwide that supports human and sex trafficking and fuels the spread of STIs, especially HIV. To read more about sex tourism and the ways you can help prevent it visit the IAMAT website:
What to do if you think you have an STI
If symptoms of an STI appear while
Sexual Health Clinics in the Lower Mainland
Sexual health clinics are available in the Lower Mainland to provide sexual and reproductive health services for all individuals. If you think you have an STI, or would like pre-travel STI testing, PAP screening or birth control visit a clinic near you:
(STI clinic only)
Sexual health is an important responsibility for any destination where you may travel. Bring back memories from your trip, not an STI or unplanned pregnancy!
TravelSafe Clinical Educator – Kristin Cain, RN, BSc, MSc(A)