Background Sexually transmitted infection (STI) rates are known to be high in New Zealand, for example the incidence rate of Chlamydia is almost double that of Australia and the United Kingdom. If public awareness about STIs is low, including knowledge about transmission, risk factors, symptoms and treatment, this could be a contributing factor to the high rates observed. To date however, there has been very little assessment of STI knowledge in New Zealand. We addressed this in this pilot study.
Methods This analysis is part of a larger study assessing health-seeking behaviour for STI among students. A questionnaire-based survey was used to obtain basic demographic information and STI knowledge information from students attending a university health centre in the North Island of New Zealand. Students could self-select to take part by picking up a copy of the questionnaire in the waiting room. Seven STI knowledge questions were used, each comprising a statement for which the respondent was asked to indicate ‘True’, ‘False’ or ‘I don’t know’. Correct answers were contrasted with incorrect and ‘I don’t know’ answers to give a general overview of STI knowledge in this population.
Results Preliminary analysis of the first 159 questionnaires returned showed variable knowledge of STI transmission, treatment and possible consequences. Students had a good knowledge of transmission, with 88% knowing that STIs can be spread even when symptoms are not present. However, knowledge about treatment and potential sequelae was poor, with 58% of respondents indicating they did not know whether Gonorrhoea could usually be treated with antibiotics, and 44% indicating that they were not aware that some kinds of cancer could be caused by STIs.
Conclusion This analysis indicates that some areas of STI knowledge could be improved in this population. This is important because knowledge can be addressed through public health interventions.
Disclosure of interest statement The authors declare no conflicts of interest.