Sex differences in the experience of testing positive for genital chlamydia infection: a qualitative study with implications for public health and for a national screening programme
- 1Royal Free and University College Medical School, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences, (Bloomsbury Campus and Whittington Campus), Wolfson Building, 48 Riding House Street, London W1N 8AA, UK
- 2Royal Free and University College Medical School, Department of Sexually Transmitted Diseases, Mortimer Market Centre, 4th Floor, Off Capper Street, London WC1E 6AU, UK
- Correspondence to: Dr Lynn Myers, Royal Free and University College Medical School, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences, (Bloomsbury Campus and Whittington Campus), Wolfson Building, 48 Riding House Street, London W1N 8AA, UK;
- Accepted 20 March 2003
Objectives: To explore men’s and women’s accounts of chlamydia testing, with a view to understanding sex differences in attitudes and in behaviours of public health importance.
Methods: Semistructured interviews with 24 heterosexual patients (12 men; 12 women) diagnosed with genital chlamydia infection, at a large sexual health clinic in central London were transcribed and analysed using qualitative thematic analysis.
Results: Participants’ expressions revealed important sex differences. Women felt anxious about their future reproductive health, feared stigmatisation, and blamed themselves for contracting chlamydia; whereas men generally reported less concern, were unwilling to disclose their condition to sexual partners, and some men projected attributions of blame onto their partners. Delays in seeking care appeared to be related to perceptions of chlamydia as a relatively minor infection, particularly in men.
Conclusions: Health promotion needs to reflect sex and age differences, emphasising the negative consequences of delayed clinic attendance and exposure to repeat infections. For health professionals to respond appropriately and effectively to increasing numbers of chlamydia infections, there is a need to understand men’s avoidant attitudes and behaviours in relation to sexual and reproductive health.