Confessions of a Hostel Bar Tender

You know what people always say about the news never being good?

Well, the more I’ve looked into the state of Sexual Health in my home country of Australia, the more I seem to come up against this kind of news.

I’ve had my fair share of sexual health problems over the years.

Working the traveller/backpacking hostels back in my youth had many benefits: cheap/free beer, a place to crash after a night out and a limitless supply of excitable, young girls who were a long way from home. I understand that I might not be coming across as the best example of a human being, but it’s hard to blame a fresh out of school 20-year old for taking advantage of the situation. I’d spent my entire adolescence being ignored by girls, my skater-boy look was one that was outdated, but something I’d stuck with well after the trend had died off.

But, whilst my matted dreadlocks and baggy jeans weren’t appealing to the local girls, I soon found that the look was a winner with the droves of visiting tourists and backpackers. Before I knew it I’d stumbled across an entire new nomadic population of young exotic people who were not only intent on exploring the country, but also wanted to find out what it was like to sleep with a real Australian and I was more than ready to let them find out.

Unfortunately, I was often less interested in protecting myself than I was in enjoying myself. By the time I was finished with that job I simultaneously discovered that I’d stumbled my way into a good relationship. Before sleeping with this person for the first time, my new partner asked if I could take a sexual health test. It was the first time I’d taken one and had never even thought about taking one before that point. I took the test and, needless to say, was more than a little surprised to find out that I had been carrying at least three separate maladies simultaneously

Although I was aware that STIs were a thing and that every time I slept with a new partner I was risking infection, I’d always assumed – and you’re really going to hate 20 year old me now – that the women I was sleeping with were not only going to be clean, but also cleaner than me.

I was the definition of a dirtbag. A selfish, irresponsible idiot who had little or no real care for those I was sleeping with and you could say that I got what I deserved. Thankfully, that woman who gave me the wake up call didn’t abandon me when I needed her most (something I would definitely have done if I was in her position) and I was able to get a complete recovery.

Why do I not feel guilty disclosing this?

Because the state of Australian sexual health education is in dire need of reform. Because rates of infections of STIs like chlamydia and gonorrhoea have been steadily rising for years now.

Because only by confronting the true state of our Sexual Health can we work to improve it for the sake of all of us, as well as future generations of Australians.

Troy Petty

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