Open Access Research article

Perceptions of HIV/STI prevention among young adults in Sweden who travel abroad: a qualitative study with focus group and individual interviews

Anna Qvarnström* and Marie G Oscarsson

Author Affiliations

Department of Health and Caring Sciences, Linnaeus University, SE-391 82 Kalmar, Sweden

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BMC Public Health 2014, 14:897  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-14-897

Published: 1 September 2014



Young adults are at risk for HIV/STIs because they generally have an active sex life with multiple sexual partners; moreover, they use condoms to a lesser extent. Travelling increases sexually risky behaviour, and among both women and men, sexual contacts abroad are common. Better knowledge of how young adults experience prevention efforts prior to travelling, and what they prefer, is important when planning prevention efforts to this group. Experiences of and attitudes towards prevention efforts against HIV/STI among young adults in Sweden who have travelled abroad were investigated.


We conducted 12 focus-group interviews and four individual interviews with young adults (20–29 years) who had travelled abroad within the last 12 months. The interviews were recorded, transcribed verbatim, and analysed using thematic content analysis. Results were discussed from a salutogenic perspective.


Only a few had any experience of prevention efforts against HIV/STIs. The majority welcomed the idea of prevention efforts prior to travelling and would have welcomed more, preferably short reminders or links to reliable websites, or someone professional to discuss the issue with. Most of the young adults would use the Internet to search for information. They proposed the possibility of reaching young adults through social media, and the importance of better basic knowledge in school.


It is difficult to reach young adults before their trips abroad. Prevention efforts on HIV/STI must therefore focus on the use of established forums. Setting the foundation for a positive attitude towards condom use is needed during school years. Even social media, where there is the possibility for dialogue, should be used as an information source.