Background: Increasing international mobility has led to a growth of cross-border HIV transmission around the world. In Australia, increasing rates of overseas-acquired HIV infections have been reported particularly amongst men. This qualitative study explored experiences and risk perceptions of 14 Australian men who acquired HIV while travelling overseas from the year 2000.
Methods: Symbolic Interaction provided the study’s theoretical perspective and analytical framework. Men living with HIV, aged 18 years and older, believing they had acquired their infection while working or travelling overseas during or after the year 2000, diagnosed from 2003 onwards, and resident in Australia prior to acquiring HIV were eligible to participate. A semi-structured interview schedule was developed and tested for content validity with the study reference group. Analysis was conducted using an adapted form of grounded theory forming the basis for the development of the experiences domains.
Results: Analysis produced four domains of experience: (1) going native…but not a local; (2) escaping and finding a new self or life; (3) a fantasy realised; and (4) living a life less ordinary. The description of the four experience domains highlights how risk generally, and sexual risk in particular, did or did not feature in these men’s understanding of their experiences.
Conclusion: Perceptions and experiences of long-term travel played a decisive role for men who acquired HIV when travelling overseas. Appealing to desired experiences such as connection to local culture or sustaining a new or adventurous life may provide important implications for guiding health promotion programs and policy.
men; overseas-acquired HIV; Australia; mobility, social, cultural and behavioural factors