oa Southern African Journal of Epidemiology and Infection - Health-seeking behaviour of people with sexually transmitted infections in the community of Nkomazi East, Mpumalanga : original research
The control of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) is a priority for the World Health Organization. It is estimated that there are 11 million cases of STIs per year in South Africa. Health-seeking and sexual behaviours are important in the management of STIs. The aim was to assess the health-seeking behaviour of people who had STIs in the community of Nkomazi East, Mpumalanga. The study design was a descriptive cross-sectional survey. Participants included patients who presented with confirmed signs or symptoms of an STI, were 16 years or older, voluntarily agreed to participate in the study and were residents of the community. A total of 332 questionnaires were collected. The majority of the participants were single, literate, unemployed black patients aged from 16-23 years (43.7%). Participants were very knowledgeable about STIs. Urethral discharge, painful micturition, vaginal discharge and lower abdominal pain were the most commonly recognised STI symptoms. All the participants (100%) sought help when they thought that they had an STI. Their preferred source of help was the public healthcare sector. Traditional healers were also consulted frequently. While compliance to treatment was satisfactory, ongoing unsafe sexual practices were common among participants who had active STIs. The respondents had a good knowledge of STI symptoms and signs and sought help early, usually from public healthcare facilities. STI health-seeking behaviour was influenced by multiple factors. This study suggests that STI control programmes should be designed around public healthcare facilities. However, adequate knowledge of STIs did not deter many respondents from engaging in unprotected sexual activity, sometimes with multiple partners.
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