Untreated STIs may have serious complications. Knowledge of STIs is important in order to prevent this, and to promote care seeking and treatment. Previous studies have found knowledge to be associated with sexual behavior and socioeconomical factors. The aim of our study was to describe the knowledge of STIs among women attending primary health care clinics in Moshi, Tanzania, to identify their sources of knowledge and evaluate if the level of knowledge is associated with socioeconomical status and the use of condoms.
A cross-sectional study conducted between June 19th and July 6th 2009, using face to face interviews of sexually active women of reproductive age, attending two primary health care clinics. The interviews were based on a questionnaire including questions on socio-demographical factors, knowledge of STIs, condom use and communication. In the knowledge part, points were given for each correct answer, resulting in a knowledge score.
The study included 166 women that had a mean knowledge score of 11.15 out of a possible of 31. 20.4% had poor knowledge, 68.5% average knowledge, 11.1% good knowledge and none very good knowledge. 46.1% thought women with STIs would always have symptoms, 42.2% answered correctly that they sometimes do not. 64.8% said that men with STIs would always have symptoms, and only 18.2% that they sometimes do not. 83.1% mentioned condom use as a way to prevent STIs, and 75.3% monogamy. Part from being formally employed (p=0.030), there was no significant association between socioeconomical status and the knowledge of STIs. 96.4% knew where to get condoms, but only 39.2% had ever used one. Women that mentioned condoms as a way of preventing STIs and women that were single/separated were more likely to have used a condom (p = 0,001 and p= 0.029 respectively). Reasons for not using condoms were that they had never discussed condoms with their partner (36.7%), partner objected (31.6%) or personal dislike (16%). Main sources of information about STIs were reproductive health clinics (83.1%), public campaigns/ media (63.0%) and schools (53.0%).
Knowledge about prevention of STIs effects condom use. The level of knowledge about STIs is too low, and further education is needed. Reproductive health clinics and public campaigns/ media may be suitable arenas for this. Further research on womens status in relationships and its effect on sexual behaviour is needed.