A study was undertaken in a Cape Town public sector STD clinic to evaluate the content and quality of care provided since it has been recognized that appropriate improvements in the management of conventional sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including provision of correct therapy, health education, condom promotion and partner notification, could result in a reduced incidence of HIV infection.
Our objectives were to assess patients' needs for health education and to assess the quality of STD management in terms of health education, condom promotion, partner notification, the validity of the clinical diagnoses and the adequacy of the treatments prescribed.
The study subjects were sampled systematically, according to their gender. Patients included in the study were given a standardized interview and their clinical records reviewed. Specimens were collected for laboratory investigations. For each STD detected, the treatment was defined as adequate if drugs currently known to be active against that infection were prescribed.
One hundred and seventy men and 161 women were included in the study (median age: females 22 years, males 26 years). While almost all patients believed their STD may have been caused by unprotected sexual intercourse, many also believed it may have been caused by other factors, such as bewitchment with traditional medicine. Only 21% of male and 37% of female patients received any education about STD transmission during the clinic visit, and only 25% of male and 36% of female patients received education about condom use. As a result of the low sensitivity of the clinicians' diagnoses, 16% of men and 61% of women left the clinic with at least one infection inadequately treated.
The majority of patients were not receiving education for the prevention of STDs including HIV. Many were not receiving adequate treatment for their infections. The introduction of a syndromic management protocol in this setting would substantially reduce the proportion of inadequately-treated patients. However, syndromic protocols, and the means by which they are implemented, need to take into account problems with the clinical detection of genital ulcerative disease and candidiasis in women.