Department of Reproductive Health and Research (RHR), World Health Organization
Sexually transmitted and other reproductive tract infections
A guide to essential practice
All patients need information about STIs/RTIs, how they are transmitted and how they can be prevented. Health care providers should express positive attitudes about sexuality and emphasize the benefits of enjoying a healthy sexual life while preserving health and fertility. Box 4.2 includes a checklist of essential information that should be provided during patient education. In addition:
Box 4.2. Checklist: what patients should know
Much of this information can be presented to groups of patients while they are waiting in the clinic to be seen. A health educator or other staff member can be trained to present basic sexual health information, including on STI prevention, using a flipchart or posters to reinforce messages. In some clinics, information can be presented using videos or audio tapes. Whatever the method, patients should be given a chance to discuss the information and ask questions in private during the examination or counselling session.
Such group presentations can help patients identify their concerns and ask specific questions. Health education should continue during the consultation and examination. For example, techniques for negotiating condom use can be discussed if the patient complains that she has trouble getting her partner to use them. Be sure to summarize important points at the end of the visit and offer patients a chance to ask questions.
Patient education about safer sex
We know that certain behaviours increase the risk of STI transmission. Some of these involve unprotected sexual contact with body fluids in the vagina, mouth, or anus. With others, such as sex work, it may be hard for the person to use condoms or other prevention methods.
Safer sex (Box 4.3) can be more pleasurable for both partners because it is less likely to cause worry, discomfort, or disease. Emphasize that safer sex is real sex—couples can talk about sex together to learn different ways of pleasing each other.
Box 4.3. What is safer sex?
Patient education following STI/RTI treatment
Patients who are being treated for an STI/RTI need additional information to help ensure they complete their treatment and avoid reinfection. Box 4.4 summarizes essential information for patients who are being treated for an STI/RTI.
Box 4.4. Patient education as part of STI/RTI case management
Infections of the male and female reproductive tract and their consequences:
Preventing STIs/RTIs and their complications
STI/RTI education and counselling
Promoting prevention of STI/RTI and use of services
STI/RTI Assessment during Routine Family Planning Visits
STI/RTI Assessment in pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum period
Management of symptomatic STIs/RTIs
STI/RTI complications related to pregnancy, miscarriage, induced abortion, and the postpartum period
Annex 1. Clinical skills needed for STI/RTI
Annex 2. Disinfection and universal precautions
Annex 3. Laboratory tests for RTI
Annex 4. Medications