What people do when they have symptoms or suspicion of a sexually transmitted disease (STD) has major implications for transmission and, consequently, for disease control. Delays in seeking and obtaining diagnosis and treatment can allow for continued transmission and the greater probability of adverse sequelae. An understanding of health seeking behaviour is therefore important if STD control programmes are to be effective. However, taboos and stigma related to sex and STD in most cultures mean that gaining a true picture is difficult and requires considerable cultural sensitivity. At the moment relatively little is known about who people turn to for advice, or about how symptoms are perceived, recognized or related to decisions to seek help. It is argued that such knowledge would assist programme planners in the development of more accessible and effective services, that studies of health seeking behaviour need to include a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods, and that studies should include data collection about people who do not present to health care facilities as well as those who do. A pilot protocol for studying STD-related health seeking behaviour in developing countries is briefly presented.
Health Policy and Planning, 12(1), 19-28
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