With the Games of the XXX Olympiad due to begin in just over a week’s time, all eyes are turning towards London to watch the world’s best athletes compete for glory. However, behind closed doors, a different kind of contest will be played out.

It’s no surprise that sex is big at the world’s largest sporting contest. With more than 10,000 athletes from more than 200 countries, the Olympic village is teeming with young people in peak physical fitness, with adrenaline to spare. And regardless of whether they win or lose, they’re going to want to let off some steam.

Since the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s, awareness has grown that the Olympics is a potential hotbed for HIV transmission, and Games organisers have increasingly been providing free condoms to competing athletes. In 1988, 8,500 condoms (about 1 per athlete) were supplied at the Seoul games. Since then, that number has grown rapidly, with a whopping 150,000 condoms expected to be given to athletes in London.

While the athletes get all the attention during the Games, you don’t have to be a super-fit demigod to know that HIV and STIs are a real risk when travelling abroad.

HIV rates in the UK are relatively low (about 1.5 per 1000 in the population), but this is higher than in Australia, and has increased rapidly in the last decade, doubling between 2001 and 2010. Higher prevalence areas include Africa (depending on the region, HIV infections range between less than 1 percent and 25 percent of the population), and Asia, where around 4.8 million people are living with HIV.

Regardless of the region you plan on visiting, it’s good to remember that increasing numbers of Australians are contracting HIV and other infections whilst travelling overseas. Therefore, whether you’re lucky enough to be heading to the UK as an athlete, spectator (or heading anywhere but London because you couldn’t give a flying…shot-put about watching the Olympics), it pays to be prepared.

Taking condoms and water based lube with you when travelling is a great start – unless you’re actually in the athlete’s village, access to these essentials could be limited. It’s also worthwhile knowing the laws of the countries you visit as they relate to sex, such as age of consent, and the legality of homosexual sex. Visiting smartraveller.gov.au is a good way to easily get an overview of these laws, and the site is updated regularly.

Wherever Sex Happens is an online resource from the Victorian AIDS Council/Gay Men’s Health Centre with lots of information and tips about sex on the go, as well as condoms, HIV, beats and SOPVs, PEP and sexual health testing. VAC/GMHC also sells condoms and water based lube at discounted prices, so you can stock up before you fly out.

For more information, contact the Victorian AIDS Council/Gay Men’s Health Centre on (03) 9865 6700 or visit the websites below:

www.whereversexhappens.com/sexandtravel.php
www.vicaids.asn.au/safe-sex-products
www.smartraveller.gov.au/

By LAURA PRENDERGAST
Victorian AIDS Council/Gay Men’s Health Centre

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