OBJECTIVE: To examine general practitioners' (GPs') attitudes towards taking a sexual history. METHODS: Questions on sexual history taking were included in a random survey on the STD knowledge, attitudes, and practices of 600 GPs practising in Victoria, Australia. RESULTS: Most GPs commonly asked patients about safe sex (79%), number of sex partners (63%), and injecting drug use (60%) while fewer asked about recent overseas travel (50%) and sex with sex workers (31%). GPs who performed sexual health consultations daily or weekly identified barriers to sexual history taking to be of less concern than those who performed such consultations infrequently. Most GPs (92%) would take a sexual history from a man presenting as the sexual contact of an infected partner, but less than a third would do so for a patient routinely requesting the contraceptive pill (28%), a Papanicolaou (Pap) smear (30%), or advice about immunisation before overseas travel (30%). Female GPs were significantly more likely than male GPs to take a sexual history in those clinical situations involving a female patient and also to perceive these patients as experiencing less embarrassment. CONCLUSIONS: This study highlights both the lack of opportunistic sexual history taking and the main barriers to sexual history taking in general practice in Victoria, Australia. The importance of educating both patients and GPs about sexual history taking are discussed.
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