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RESEARCH ARTICLE

Management rates of sexually transmissible infections by Australian general practitioners, 2000–2012

Anthony J. Santella A C , Allan Pollack B , Christopher Harrison B , Shailendra N. Sawleshwarkar A , Helena C. Britt B and Richard J. Hillman A

A Western Sydney Sexual Health Centre, Sydney Medical School, The University of Sydney, Parramatta, Sydney, NSW 2150, Australia.

B Family Medicine Research Centre, Sydney School of Public Health, The University of Sydney, Parramatta, Sydney, NSW 2150, Australia.

C Corresponding author. Email: asantella@gmail.com

Sexual Health 11(1) 52-57 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/SH13179
Submitted: 7 November 2013  Accepted: 27 January 2014   Published: 12 March 2014

Abstract

Background: In Australia, general practitioners (GPs) manage the majority of sexually transmissible infections (STIs). Most STIs are diagnosed and treated by GPs as a result of symptom recognition or risk identification. We aimed to determine how frequently six common STIs were managed by GPs, the characteristics of the GPs and patients, and any changes over time. Methods: Data from the Bettering the Evaluation and Care of Health (BEACH) program for April 2000–March 2012 were analysed. BEACH is a national study of GP activity. The overall management rates of genital herpes (herpes simplex virus, HSV), genital warts, HIV, chlamydia (Chlamydia trachomatis), gonorrhoea (Neisseria gonorrhoeae) and syphilis were calculated. Results: In total, 11 784 GPs recorded details of 1 178 400 patient encounters. These included: 115 cases of genital HSV per 100 000 encounters, 92 of genital warts, 67 of HIV, 39 of chlamydia, 6 of gonorrhoea and 7 of syphilis. Higher management rates occurred among patients who were male, 15–24 years old, more socially advantaged, Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, resident in a major city or of English-speaking background. GPs who were female and those aged under 60 years had higher STI management rates than their counterparts. Conclusions: HSV and warts were the most common STIs managed. Lower management rates for the other STIs may reflect lower incidence or lower testing rates, because these other STIs are frequently asymptomatic. It is important to determine whether existing approaches effectively target the most at-risk communities and what barriers to presentation exist.

Additional keywords: BEACH program, general practice, health services, primary care, public health.


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