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Last Updated: Friday, 4 February, 2005, 15:50 GMT
HIV link to trek tourism studied
Nepal trekkers
The study will look at factors leading to infection
The sexual behaviour of Nepalese trekking guides and tourists is to be the subject of a study by researchers at Aberdeen University.

A team of public health experts will assess the risk of sexual infection between guides and travellers.

It is thought the fact that condoms are considered a social taboo in Nepal could be a factor.

Visitors to Nepal are a known "high-risk group" in terms of acquiring sexually transmitted infections.

Dr Padam Simkhada, of the university's public health department, said: "There is an urgent need to undertake this study to understand more fully the nature and extent of high-risk sexual activity among young Nepalese trekking guides.

"Medical problems and health risks of trekkers or tourists are documented to some extent, but little information is known about the sexual activity of trekkers' guides.

"Condoms are available in Nepal but are viewed by many as culturally and socially taboo."

There is an urgent need to undertake this study
Dr Padam Simkhada
Aberdeen University

Nepal is one of the world's fastest-growing adventure destinations and researchers believe visitors have become "high-risk" as they lower their inhibitions when abroad.

The research is being carried out in conjunction with the University of Southampton and local non-governmental organisations in Nepal.

About 500 questionnaires will be distributed to trekking guides and the companies which hire them. Researchers also plan to carry out in-depth interviews with guides.

Dr Simkhada, who is from Nepal, said: "Findings from this study could be very useful for the formation of appropriate public health policies, and could help to revise the existing training curriculum and training package for trekking guides."

The 8,500 funding for the study came from the Department for International Development-funded Safe Passages to Adulthood programme.

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