“It feels good to be told that I’m all clear”: patients’ accounts of retesting following genital chlamydial infection

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Abstract

Objective:

To examine the meaning that people with genital chlamydial infection attribute to retesting as part of their treatment management.

Methods:

Unstructured interviews with 50 heterosexual patients (40 female and 10 male) who had or had had genital chlamydia infection. Recruitment was via a genitourinary medicine clinic and a contraceptive clinic.

Results:

The return visit was understood in terms of the retest. The retest occupied a pivotal position in the infection experience and was invested with symbolic significance because it provided a means by which to deal with feelings of bodily pollution. It marked the end of dirtiness that was important for the restoration of identity. It also marked the beginning of cleanness that was important in relation to sexual relationships.

Conclusion:

The sociocultural construction of sexually transmitted infections shapes the individual experience of having chlamydial infection. This perspective sheds light on the meaning that individuals invest in aspects of infection management. It is important for some people to know rather than assume that their infection has been eliminated, a function that is fulfilled by the retest. When retesting is not available, individuals may use increasingly available opportunistic chlamydia testing for this purpose with consequent cost and resource implications.

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