Identifying the barriers and enablers to accessing sexual health information and services by international students in Australia.

Mrs Carolyn Slattery1

1NSW STI Programs Unit, Sydney, Australia

International students, including university students, are a priority population of the NSW Sexual Health Promotion Action Plan (SHPAP) 2018-2020 within the NSW Sexually Transmissible Infections (STIs) and HIV Strategies 2016-2020. To guide the development of prevention and treatment services, we aimed to identify the barriers and enablers to accessing sexual health information and services by international students.  A published and grey literature review was undertaking using search terms ‘international students’, ‘international university students’, ‘young culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) people’ and ‘immigrants aged 18-29 years’. Only Australian based studies were reviewed. Barriers included limited understanding of sexual health, transmission of STI and HIV and the role of general practitioners, and limited knowledge and understanding of overseas health cover, the Australian health system and accessing sexual health services. A final group of barriers were cost and affordability of sexual health care, stigma, beliefs, fear of discrimination and confidentiality concerns. Enablers for information included sexual health education during university lectures, digital mediums and online resources, use of videos for sexual health education and same-sex and cultural group sessions for some female students. Enablers for accessing services included confidentiality, expert staff, anonymous counsellors, online advisors, doctors and providers with similar backgrounds to students and peer education programs.  Findings from the literature review has informed future projects for international students in NSW. Projects include the development and marketing of a sexual and reproductive health website (hub) for international students, and the piloting of a sexual health peer education toolkit in universities.


Carolyn has worked in the field of health promotion for over 20 years.  Since moving to the sexual health promotion sector six years ago she has planned, implemented and evaluated numerous population health programs in schools, general practice, drug and alcohol services, youth services and Aboriginal medical services.  Currently Carolyn is co-leading the NSW Sexual Health Promotion International Students collaborative group. This group develops programs aimed at improving the sexual health outcomes of international students across NSW.

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