Healthy living

Infections spread by sexual or blood contact overseas

  • Rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and blood-borne viruses (BBVs) are high in some overseas countries.
  • Always wear a condom when you’re having sex with casual or regular partners overseas.
  • If you’re planning to travel, pack condoms, and ask a doctor about HIV prevention medicine (also called PrEP).
  • If you’ve had sex while travelling or think you may have put yourself at risk of BBVs, ask your doctor for a STI or BBV test when you get back.

STIs and BBVs are common in some overseas countries, such as in Southeast Asia. The rates of some of these infections are on the rise in these areas, for example HIV and gonorrhoea that is resistant to standard treatments.

Some overseas medical, dental, tattooing and piercing practises, particularly in developing countries, are not as regulated as in Australia. This includes planned surgical or emergency procedures. This increases risk of BBVs.

STIs and BBVs often have no symptoms and spread easily. If left untreated, they can cause serious long term health issues.

The only way to know is to have a test. Most STIs and BBVs are easily treated.

Know your risk before you travel, and find out more about safer sex and ways to prevent blood-borne viruses.

Common STIs and BBVs overseas




How do I get them?

  • Unprotected vaginal, oral or anal sex – always wear a condom when you’re having sex overseas
  • Sharing injecting drug equipment (including needles, syringes and spoons)
  • Unsterile body piercing or tattooing procedures
  • Unprotected sex where blood might be involved (sometimes small tears in genital/anal areas can be too small to notice)
  • Contaminated (nonsterile) medical or dental equipment
  • Unsafe blood transfusions and organ or tissue transplantation.
Before you travel

There are lots of things you can do to help reduce your risk of getting an STI or BBV.

Before you travel overseas:

  • pack condoms and water-based lubricant, whether or not you plan on having sex whilst away, as these can be difficult to access in some areas or can be poor quality. Find free condoms
  • talk to a doctor or sexual health clinic about taking HIV prevention medicine also known as preexposure prophylaxis (‘PrEP’). PrEP is the use of HIV medications by HIV-negative people to prevent getting HIV through unprotected sex. PrEP will not protect you from other STIs
  • pack a travel health kit which includes needles/syringes if you take injectable medication. If you take any prescribed medications, such as PrEP, you should have a letter from the doctor that prescribed it for you. Similarly, a travel doctor can write a letter to explain the contents of your travel kit
  • discuss vaccinations with a travel doctor. Vaccines against hepatitis B and other vaccine preventable diseases are available
  • if you are aged 19 years or under, check that you have received the full 2 or 3 doses of HPV vaccination - you may be eligible for a free catch up vaccine.
While you are overseas
  • Use condoms with water-based lubricant to prevent STIs, including HIV.
  • Avoid having unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex with casual (including other travellers) or regular partners.
  • Where possible, avoid any procedure that involves injections, transfusion of blood or blood products, or surgery. Blood products in some countries may not be screened as fully as in Australia and therefore may be a source of HIV or other infections.
  • Avoid any skin penetration or body art procedures, such as tattooing or piercing. Body artists in other countries may not have the same infection control standards as studios in Australia, so consider waiting until you get home to get a new tattoo or piercing!
  • Avoid injecting drugs, but if you do, avoid sharing needles, syringes and injecting equipment including spoons.
After you return

See a doctor when you get back if you have:

  • had unprotected sex (vaginal, anal or oral) with casual or regular partners
  • been exposed to blood or blood products
  • undergone any procedure requiring puncturing of the skin with a needle or instrument.

STIs and BBVs often have no symptoms. The only way to be sure is to have a test (usually just a urine and blood sample).  Visit a GP or sexual health clinic or find a health clinic near you for an STI and BBV test.

If you believe you have been exposed to HIV, you can access post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP). PEP is a 4-week course of anti-HIV medication which, if taken within 72 hours of exposure, could prevent you from getting HIV infection. Call the WA PEP Line at 1300 767 161 to get PEP.

STIs and BBVs are easily treated. If left untreated, they can cause serious long term health issues.

Last reviewed: 01-12-2023
Anyone can be a HealthySexual: talk, test, protect