Background: Few empirical data exist on the impact of preventive human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) interventions on intended and actual sexual behavior of international tourists. The present cross-sectional study is based on a 2 × 2 design.
Methods: The sample consisted of departing and arriving passengers (n = 3100) at Zurich Airport with destinations in countries where heterosexual HIV transmission is dominant. While 41% of the tourists obtained information about safer sex, the remaining 59% without such intervention served as control group. Departing passengers completed a short questionnaire focusing on their planned sexual behavior. Arriving passengers were asked about their actual behavior during the journey. Subjects of the intervention group also evaluated the impact of the consultation.
Results: Most travelers appreciated the intervention and reported that they received important information. Members of the intervention group were better informed than those of the control group about the risk of heterosexually transmitted HIV infection (p < .01). They also indicated more often that they could imagine having casual sex abroad (23% vs 16%, p < .01). However, the two groups did not differ with regard to planned condom use or actual sexual behavior. Whereas most of departing passengers indicated that they would use condoms consistently, only half of the passengers who reported casual sex actually did so. Subjects who refused to participate in the intervention tended to consider it as irrelevant and reported less consistent condom use.
Conclusions: Although travel health interventions focusing on casual sex are appreciated and increase the knowledge, they failed to result in significant behavior modification. Future projects should attempt to approach possible risk groups more specifically and to have more impact.