HIV risk among Australian men travelling overseas: networks and context matter
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Increasing international mobility presents a risk for communicable disease transmission. Overseas-acquired HIV infections have been increasingly observed across Australian jurisdictions. This includes a mix of men emigrating from countries with high HIV prevalence and men travelling abroad. There is currently little research exploring international mobility and HIV risk, and as a consequence the increase of men acquiring HIV while travelling overseas is poorly understood. This paper draws on data from a qualitative study exploring the risk perspectives and experiences of 14 Australian men who acquired HIV while travelling overseas in the years between 2000 and 2009. Participants articulated a strong desire to distance themselves from the identity of a tourist. Social networks were highlighted as important entry points to engage with other foreign travellers and expatriates. These networks were highly influential and were understood by the participants to provide guidance on how they should negotiate the local scene, including where to meet sex partners. Limited discussion of safe sex and HIV was mentioned in these contexts. The findings suggest that prevalent social norms and social networks play an influential role in how participants negotiate sex and social relations in overseas settings. These networks could potentially provide sites for effective HIV-prevention programmes.
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