A survey of STI policies and programmes in Europe: preliminary results

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Objectives:A survey was conducted to assess the adequacy of sexually transmitted infections (STI) prevention and control policies and programmes in the European region (including the central Asian republics).Methods:An adapted World Health Organization (WHO) model questionnaire was sent to ministry of health officials in all 45 countries of Europe and central Asia. The questionnaire included questions on STI programme structure; STI case management; the different types and levels of services, including public and private service providers; partner notification and screening policies; services for vulnerable populations; monitoring and supervision; surveillance and research.Results:Western European countries largely leave STI prevention and care to individual practitioners. Licensed providers exist at all levels of care, and access to consultations and treatment is usually free of charge. In the newly independent states (NIS), by contrast, programme efforts emphasise state guidance and supervision of local providers rather than individual practitioners. Access to services is limited in that in several NIS, only public sector specialists are licensed to treat STI. Formerly free of charge policies have been severely eroded. While in western Europe access to condoms appears to be good, in the NIS there are many fewer condom outlets. Regionwide, in 40% of countries the distribution of condoms is part of STI consultations.Conclusions:Non-availability of affordable high quality STI services, including STI treatment and condoms, may be one of the causes for the much higher STI prevalence in parts of eastern Europe and NIS than in western Europe.

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