Population-based survey on STI-associated symptoms and health-seeking behaviours among Iranian adults

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Abstract

Background

Qualified decision-making for the improved management of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) requires various sources of information. We aimed to estimate the STI-associated symptom prevalence and care-seeking patterns in the general population of Iran.

Methods

In 2014, using a street-based survey with a standard gender-specific questionnaire on STI-associated symptoms and willingness to seek treatment, we interviewed 9166 Iranian participants, who were selected from among the 18–60-year-old population using multistage sampling. Data were analysed via generalised estimating equation and survey analysis, taking into account a 95% confidence coefficient.

Results

About 67.3% of participants, mean age 33 years, were ‘assumed sexually active’ and were therefore eligible for inclusion. Approximately 39.9% (95% CI 28.4% to 51.4%) of women and 17.6% (95% CI 13.9% to 21.6%) of men reported at least one STI-associated symptom in the current week. The occurrence of symptoms decreased with an increase in age in both genders (p<0.05). About 21.2% (95% CI 13.3% to 29.1%) of women and 7.1% (95% CI 5.4% to 7.8%) of men treated symptoms themselves after symptoms first appeared. Of the women and men with symptoms, 37.4% (95% CI 24.8% to 50.0%) and 46.8% (95% CI 39.7% to 51.4%), respectively, sought care. Most women visited a gynaecologist and midwife; men tended to visit a general practitioner and urologist after their symptoms appeared.

Conclusions

The prevalence of STI-associated symptoms in Iranian adults is considerable. The results emphasise the need for appropriate and timely STI care and more attention to sexual health promotion to mitigate onward and future infections. Attention to the care-seeking pattern is fundamental to policymaking and planning.

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