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Creating community awareness of reproductive tract infections (RTI), including sexually transmitted infections (STI), and how to prevent them is essential to minimize their spread. Data on people's views about RTI/STI are entirely lacking in Laos. The aim of this study was thus to explore people's perceptions, treatment-seeking behaviour and understanding of information about RTI/STI, in urban and rural communities in two provinces in Laos. Fourteen focus group discussions and 20 in-depth interviews were held with 76 women and 56 men, selected purposively to provide diversity of socio-demographic backgrounds. Qualitative content analysis was employed for the data analysis. The major finding was that both male and female participants had a variety of misconceptions about the causes and symptoms of RTI/STI and their cure, and a reluctance to seek health care, which could cause delay in appropriate diagnosis and treatment. The most common treatment-seeking behaviour was self-medication through private pharmacies, following advice mostly given by friends and drug sellers. The main reasons for not going to health facilities were fear of social discrimination or shyness of genital examination. Complaints were also made about clinicians' negative attitudes towards ‘dirty disease’. Although condom use was mentioned as a way to prevent RTI/STI, an unwillingness to use condoms was commonly expressed. The main media sources of RTI/STI information were radio and television, and access to health information was more difficult in rural areas. The health messages provided were mostly understood, except for some technical terms. The findings indicate that strengthening health education and promotion through interventions at the community level is recommended to improve quality of RTI/STI management. Health education messages should be more accessible in rural areas. There is also an urgent need to improve communication between RTI/STI patients and clinicians.

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Journal of Biosocial Science
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  • EISSN: 1469-7599
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