Foundations for effective strategies to control sexually transmitted infections: Voices from rural Kenya

William Moss, M. Bentley, S. Maman, D. Ayuko, O. Egessah, M. Sweat, P. Nyarang'o, J. Zenilman, A. Chemtai, N. Halsey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Achieving maximal benefit from clinic-based, sexually transmitted infection (STI) control strategies requires that persons seek treatment at public clinics. Community-based, ethnographic research methods were used to examine patterns of health-seeking behavior for sexually transmitted infections in western Kenya. Illness narratives of sexually transmitted infections provided the basis for an analysis of sequential steps in health-seeking behavior, namely recognition, classification, overcoming stigma, identification of treatment options and selection of a course of therapy. A variety of terms were used to identify STI, including multiple terms referring to 'women's disease'. The stigma associated with STI, reflected in the terminology, was based on a set of beliefs on the causes, contagiousness and sequelae of STI, and resulted in delays in seeking treatment. Five commonly used treatment options were identified, with multiple sources of care often used concurrently. The desire for privacy, cost and belief in the efficacy of traditional medicines strongly influenced health-seeking behaviour. A belief that sexually transmitted infections must be transmitted in order to achieve cure was professed by several respondents and promoted by a traditional healer. Implications for STI control strategies are derived, including the development of educational messages and the design of clinics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)95-113
Number of pages19
JournalAIDS Care - Psychological and Socio-Medical Aspects of AIDS/HIV
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Social Psychology


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