Background: In Zambia, persons use different types of services when seeking treatment for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
Goal: To gain insight into the rationale behind the selection of treatment sources by investigating perceptions of STDs and by identifying STD treatment sources used.
Study design: Focus group discussions were held with 57 men and 44 women in one urban and one rural area in Zambia between May 1997 and June 1997. The focus group discussions were audiotaped and analyzed qualitatively.
Results: Participants combined traditional and modern treatment. The main reason given was that even when biomedical medicine was effective, STDs could only be totally cured if the patient was cleansed by traditional herbs. Factors influencing health-seeking behavior were the person's perception, how the diagnosis was determined, type and cost of treatment, demand for sexual partners, and attitudes of health workers, parents, and the church.
Conclusion: Barriers and enabling factors for the use of treatment sources were identified. Interventions to improve services and cooperation between the health sectors need to consider these factors.