Background: Plans are underway to introduce Chlamydia screening in UK primary care. The success of a screening programme depends upon many factors including its acceptability to the population being screened. The experiences of women who have taken part in a pilot study of screening are therefore important in ensuring that services are developed in such a way to maximise health benefits.
Objectives: To explore the experiences of Chlamydia screening among women with both positive and negative results and women who were still waiting for results; to reflect on the implications of their views for primary care based screening programmes.
Methods: Interviews were carried out with twenty women who had participated in a pilot of opportunistic Chlamydia screening carried out in eight general practices in Edinburgh. Four participants had received a positive result, 14 had a negative result and two were still waiting for results. Qualitative analysis was carried out on interview transcripts using the framework approach.
Results: Most women saw themselves as at low risk of Chlamydia infection because: it was not perceived as a common infection (many had never heard of it before); they felt that their sexual history did not put them at risk; or because they had no symptoms (although Chlamydia is frequently asymptomatic). Women interviewed welcomed the offer of Chlamydia screening because of the importance of preventing infertility, the ease of testing, and the knowledge that the infection could easily be treated with antibiotics. However, women stressed that it was important to receive adequate information in order to make an informed choice about whether or not to accept the test.
Conclusions: The complexity of messages to be conveyed when offering a Chlamydia screening test, for instance regarding the symptomless nature of the infection and the implications of a positive result, mean that the time taken to communicate this adequately should not be underestimated.