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Choosing and using services for sexual health: women's views
  1. Sophie Day
  1. Anthropology, Goldsmith's College, London SE14 6NW, UK and Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, Imperial College School of Medicine at St Mary's, London W2 1PG, UK

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    As the paper on chlamydia screening by Dixon-Woods et al in this issue (p 335) shows, qualitative research can tell you how patients are referred to sexual health services and why they come. These provide compelling reasons for integrating qualitative with more standard quantitative methods in STI research. The control of infection depends not only on effective prevention and treatment of pathogens but also on the interactions between pathogen, host, and environment. Qualitative methodologies are integral to our understanding of at least two points in this triangle. Interview, fieldwork, and a range of other methods allow us to describe what people say and what they do, and to investigate the often complex relationships between the two.

    The paper highlights findings from interviews with patients that are relevant to clinical and public health planning. The authors show that patients are “ambassadors” of the services and thus underscore the importance of lay rather than professional networks of referral to services. They demonstrate the importance of being able to phone for results and thus the need for patients to retain an element of control over interactions in the clinic. They show too that consultations are prompted less by concerns about a specific infection and more …

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    • Editor's note: See also paper by Scoular et al, p 340–3.