Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Linda Whiteford, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Nancy Romero-Daza, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Boo Kwa, Ph.D.


Latin America, STIs, Adolescents, Migration, Risk


The main goal of this thesis is to understand a community’s perceptions of the potential impact of tourism on the spread of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including HIV/AIDS in Monteverde, Costa Rica. In particular, I examine the ways in which globalization and increased travel affect the overall health and behavioral patterns among young people from a community reliant on tourism. The impact of migration and population movement on the spread of infectious diseases has already been well documented. Moreover, there is a clear understanding of the impact of sex tourism on the spread of STIs. However, this project seeks to understand the impact of tourism on a local population that does not have a formal commercial sex industry. Instead, the majority of sexual interactions between young local men and visiting women reflect more of an attitude of adventure and tend to be romantic in nature. Local men are inclined to have casual sexual relations with female tourists because foreign women are perceived as more liberal and sexually adventurous. Visiting women are attracted to the idea of an exotic, sexual relationship while on vacation. The interactions that result from these mentalities often lead to risky sexual behavior that could facilitate the transmission of STIs. This project was exploratory in nature. Data were collected from various sectors of the Monteverde community with a focus on their perceptions of the role tourism plays on changing local behavior.

This project also seeks to understand the current level of sex education and STI prevention among the youth of the community. These data were used to create targeted interventions within the community in recognition of World AIDS DAY on December 1, 2003, and can inform the design of future education and prevention programs that are culturally appropriate.