Objective: To describe the characteristics of gonorrhoea and prostitution in Kermanshah, Iran.
Method: From 1997 through 2000, 100 male gonorrhoea patients were followed for a mean of 18 months (range 8–42 months). Diagnosis and follow up were made by a combination of history, physical examination, and the Gram stained smear.
Results: 4% of patients became infected by girlfriends, 24% by temporary (sigheh) wives, and 64% by street prostitutes; the remaining 8% denied coitus with sex workers. Of 38 married cases, 31 reported unprotected intercourse with permanent wives while infected, and only four of 38 gave prescribed drugs to their wives. 89% of contacts with prostitutes were unprotected. Most of the prostitutes and professional sigheh wives were practising survival sex. Fear of stigmatisation and presumed severe penalties prevented prostitutes from seeking medical care, and 26% of patrons reported self medication. An average 84% of prescriptions of standard therapies failed. 31% of the cases remained refractory to all available therapies.
Conclusions: The majority of the prostitutes and sigheh wives in Iran exchange sex for survival. Being uneducated survival sex workers, they accept risky sex behaviours easily. Sigheh wives are an important source of infection. The very high rate of persistent infection despite standard treatments is disturbing. Our ideal is a world in which nobody is obliged to enter commercial sex work. In the meantime, however, there is an urgent need to offer medical care and education to sex workers as needy patients in a safe and unprejudiced environment. Denying the presence of such realities as prostitution and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) because of their disagreement with cant claims and official propaganda, does not eradicate the facts but results in catastrophic public health problems.
- sexually transmitted diseases
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