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Sexual health, HIV and the 2012 Olympics

The Olympic Games poses opportunities and challenges for Sexual Health in London and other host cities, not just for the local populations and visitors but also for the athletes.

Some host cities (Seoul and Sydney) witnessed an increase in international visitors in the Olympic year, whereas previous European host cities (Barcelona and Athens) witnessed a decrease in visitors in the Olympic year.

Indirect evidence from accommodation occupancy rates shows significant peaks around the Olympics and Paralympics, suggesting a high influx of visitors during the Olympic period however, the period immediately before and after the event saw a drop in visitors.

So what is the likely impact of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and sexual health issues during the Olympic and Paralympics Games?

The truth is there is limited published data on the impact of STIs during the Olympic and the Paralympic Games. However, we do know the number of condoms provided to athletes during the past three Olympic Games (around 8 condoms in Sydney in 2000, around 8 in Athens in 2004 and around 6 in Beijing 2008).

In Sydney, authorities initially distributed 70,000 condoms to athletes but an additional 20,000 were ordered to meet demand. Around 10,000 commercial sex workers were operating at the time of the Games as Commercial sex work was legalised in 1995. In fact, sex workers were recruited from abroad to meet the expected surge. Importantly, the Australian government contributed public money to fund sex education to sex workers.

300,000 condoms were distributed in 90,000 rooms in 424 hotels (3 stars or more) for the Beijing Olympic Games and other key work included a collaboration between Olympic organisers, UNAIDS and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to promote an HIV/AIDS Awareness Toolkit which provided material on HIV/AIDS education to members of the Olympic Movement and to the wider sporting community.

The IOC encourages involvement of high-profile HIV positive sports personalities to de-stigmatise HIV/AIDS and advocates inclusion of HIV positive sportsmen and women as there are no valid reports of HIV transmission in sports settings.

Hepatitis B Virus
The Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) is more stable in the public environment with the risk of transmission 50-100 times higher than HIV transmission in sport settings. HIVsport would therefore recommend that a Hepatitis B (Hep B) vaccination is offered to:

  • Non-infected athletes from endemic areas
  • Athletes who regularly visit endemic areas 
  • Athletes who practise first aid in absence of healthcare providers
  • Athletes suspected of doping
  • Athletes involved in contact or collision sports 


There will likely be a large rise in numbers of people in London (due to its geographical positioning and access routes to and from other parts of the world) and in other Olympic event host cities throughout England and Wales, up to and during the 2012 Olympic Games. The extensive building programme is well under way and the construction workforce is already estimated to be around 3,000 (likely to total more than 100,000 over the next four years) and there may be thousands of sex workers including trafficked women who are likely to arrive in the run-up to 2012.

It is estimated that there will be over 10,000 athletes with around 250,000 “accredited people” (people who work with and or support the athletes), and up to an estimated 9 million people who will be in London for the Games. Already there are 100,000 people who have registered interest in volunteering for 2012.

Evidence from the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney shows that there is a big increase in demand for sexual health services during the period of the Olympic Games and corresponding increase in sexually related diseases, mainly among casual workers. Likewise, data shows increased sexual activity at the Olympics with potential for poor sexual health including chlamydia, gonorrhoea and HIV and there was immense pressure on sexual health services including access to condoms, sexual health promotion/information and signposting to contraception services. 

In a proactive move London authorities have set up the 2012 Olympics Sexual Health Planning Group with an aim to develop a Strategic Commissioning Plan to meet the Sexual Health needs up to, during and immediately after the Olympics. HIVsport is part of this group and is contributing to the planning and development of a Sexual Health Promotion Toolkit, which builds upon the HIV/AIDS Awareness Toolkit for Beijing, to create a legacy document from London that can also be built upon by future Olympic hosts. 


The Department of Health in England has set up the Olympic and Paralympic Health Programme (OPHP) with the aim of ensuring that the planning and the delivery relating to the health implications for the Olympic and Paralympic Games are as effective and efficient as possible.

The OPHP aims to engage with all 10 Strategic Health Authorities in England and NHS Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will be engaged on an ‘informed’ basis, with NHS London covering the 2012 Olympic Programme with similar objectives but focusing on London.

Both programmes have been set up to help define and deliver the services, projects and resources that need to be in place to ensure we fulfil our London 2012 bid commitments up to and beyond the Olympic and Paralympic Games. 

2012 Paralympics

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HIVsport would like to thank
Durex for their support


Durex's vision is that of an HIV-free world.

We have an overriding commitment to sexual health and a strong track record of supporting initiatives to raise awareness of HIV prevention for all.

This is why we are proud to sponsor HIVsport in its effort to promote sexual health in the field of sport.

  Beer Goggles