Objectives: To assess the quality of sexually transmitted infections (STI) care in health care facilities in Abidjan attended by female sex workers.
Methods: A cross-sectional study was conducted in June 2000 in the 29 health care facilities and 10 pharmacies, which were reported as points of first encounter for STI care by female sex workers in a previous study on health seeking behaviour. Evaluation components included: (1) checklists of equipment and STI drugs in the facilities; (2) interviews with health care providers and pharmacists; (3) direct observation of the provider/client interaction; (4) exit interviews with women attending with STI or genital problems.
Results: Private health care facilities were more expensive, had fewer clients, and had less equipment and medical staff than public facilities, with the exception of the special female sex worker clinic. A total of 60 health care providers and 29 pharmacists were interviewed. There was no difference in their scoring on syndromic approach case studies, with the exception of the nurse assistants, who scored less. Overall scores for correct treatment were lowest for the pharmacists. We observed 513 provider-client interactions, of which 161 related to STIs or genital problems in women. Questions about recent sexual contacts were asked in only 20% and preventive messages were given in only 9% of the cases with STI/genital problems. Of 161 clients interviewed, 44% complained about a long waiting time, and 39% thought the health care provider had adequately explained the problem to them.
Conclusions: The opportunity for improvement of STI case management in health care facilities in Abidjan where female sex workers go for STI care is enormous. Public and private health care facilities should be made more accessible for sex workers, and their services should be upgraded to better respond to the sexual health needs of high risk women.