Skip to content
Curtin University
Collaboration for Evidence, Research and Impact in Public Health

Social Research Into Overseas-Acquired HIV Among Male Western Australian Residents, (2008-2010)


Chief Investigators

  • Dr Graham Brown (WACHPR, Curtin University)
  • Dr Jeanne Ellard (NCHSR, UNSW),
  • Dr Julie Moonie-Summers (NCHECR, UNSW)
  • Associate Professor Garrett Prestage (NCHECR, UNSW and ARCSHS, La Trobe University)
  • Dr Sean Slavin (ARCSHS, La Trobe University)

Collaborating Partners

  • Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society (ARCSHS), La Trobe University
  • National Centre in HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research (NCHECR), UNSW
  • National Centre in HIV Social Research (NCHSR), The University of New South Wales (UNSW)


  • Sexual Health and Blood Borne Virus Program, Department of Health Western Australia ($90,084)

Project Aim

  • To investigate the demographic, social, cultural, setting, behavioural and cognitive factors which may have contributed to the overseas-acquisition of HIV by male residents of Western Australia.     


The proportion of people who have acquired HIV while travelling or working in other countries is an emerging epidemic in Australia. In Western Australia (WA) this has become approximately half of new male infections, with most of these infections among heterosexual men. Epidemiological surveillance data showed what was happening but not why or why it was increasing, nor opportunities for intervention.

Project Overview

In-depth interviews were conducted with WA (12) and NT (2) male residents who had recently acquired HIV while travelling or working in Asian and African countries to investigate the social, cultural, setting, behavioural, cognitive, gender and power dynamics which may have contributed to HIV transmission. 14 men (9 self identified heterosexual, 5 self identified gay) who met the criteria were interviewed using a semi structured schedule. Interview ttranscripts were analysed using a modified constant comparative method to identify major themes.


Firstly, the strong and sustained networks amongst Australian expatriates and longer term travellers heavily influenced the men’s understanding of the culture and contexts of the country, how to meet sexual and relationship partners, and created an experience of mentoring and camaraderie. Secondly, participants perspectives before and during their time abroad were not risk averse, but the nature of their travel tended to be about engaging with a new culture, escaping from and finding new experiences, realising fantasies, and/or actively living a life less ordinary.

Health promotion strategies may need to consider more targeted programs rather than a single campaign for all expatriates and tourists, or closer collaboration and support of local in-country campaigns. The influence and role of social networks amongst these men while in country may be very influential and indicates that prevention interventions that engage with these networks and risk perspectives may be effective in targeting programs. However significant cultural, gender and power issues need to be engaged with.


Associated Projects