Title

Online strategies for sexual health promotion: How to effectively reach backpackers in WA

Abstract

Introduction:

Backpackers are a high-risk population for sexually transmitted infections. In May 2012 the Department of Health WA launched the Backpackers Sexual Health Project to increase knowledge of safe sex practices among young backpackers visiting WA (www.couldihaveit.com.au/backpackers.asp).

Methods:

Promotional posters and condom wallets were distributed in hostels and GP clinics that saw a high number of backpackers, and condom vending machines were provided to two hostels. Condom wallets were also included in 500 rental vehicles. Promotional materials included information about chlamydia and how to access free testing via an online chlamydia testing webpage (http://www.couldihaveit.com.au/onlineTesting.asp).

Results:

While the promotion did result in a small increase in webpage visits, it did not successfully encourage backpackers to undergo online chlamydia testing. However, the lessons learnt provide evidence that may lead to more effective promotion in the future. Responding to trends in the digital environment is essential. Young people are constantly connected to the internet (particularly through smartphones), and search engines are their primary portal of information. Therefore, it is necessary to identify online spaces that reach backpackers, such as accommodation and job websites. Websites must be accessible by mobile devices and developed with consideration for search engine algorithms to ensure a high ranking in searches. The Department of Health WA implemented online strategies for Get the Facts (www.getthefacts.health.wa.gov.au) that were highly effective in generating an increase in direct website visits and via search engine or social network referrals.

Conclusions:

Future strategies targeting backpackers need to make use of online spaces and technologies that reach backpackers.

Keywords

HIV, AIDS, sexual health, backpackers, Western Australia

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