Background: Prompt treatment of sexually transmitted infections may reduce the incidence of HIV/AIDS infections. With health sector reforms private pharmacies are increasingly the first and only contact with health delivery services.
Objectives: To find out how patients with STDs are treated at private pharmacies in Hanoi, and what drug sellers know about STD management.
Methods: Five simulated clients were taught to adopt a scenario stating that their friend had a urethral discharge. They visited 60 randomly selected private pharmacies in urban Hanoi and noted all questions asked, advice offered, and treatment given. Afterwards interviewers administered a semistructured questionnaire to all people working in the 60 pharmacies.
Results: Drug treatment was given in 84% of the 297 encounters averaging 1.5 drugs and 1.2 antibiotics per encounter. Quinolones were given 188 times. No dispensing was adequate for chlamydia or was in accordance with the national guidelines. No questions were asked in 55% of encounters and no advice was given in 61%. Questions on sexual activity were asked in 23% (69) of cases and about the health of the partner twice (1%). Advice to practise safe sex was given in 1% of encounters and for the partner to seek treatment only once. Of 69 questionnaires administered 51% said they would refer to a doctor, 16% said they would ask about the sexual activity 1% said they would ask about the health of the partner, 7% said they would advise using a condom, and 1% advised telling the partner to seek treatment. Even after prompting, 61% would ask no questions and 80% would give no advice.
Conclusions: Even though 74% of pharmacists and drug sellers know that they should not treat STD patients, 84% actually did. None gave syndromically correct treatment. In both the questionnaire and during the simulated client methods, numbers advising on partner notification and condom use were very poor. Educational or peer awareness interventions are urgently needed among private pharmacists in Vietnam.
- sexually transmitted diseases
- private pharmacies
- simulated client methods
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