Background: Sexually Transmitted diseases (STD) syndrome management has been one cornerstone of STD treatment. Persons with STD symptoms in many countries, especially those with limited resources, often initially seek care in pharmacies. The objective of the study was to develop and evaluate an integrated network of physicians, midwives and pharmacy workers trained in STD syndromic management (The PREVEN Network) as part of a national urban community-randomized trial of sexually transmitted infection prevention in Peru.
Methods and findings: After a comprehensive census of physicians, midwives, and pharmacies in ten intervention and ten control cities, we introduced seminars and workshops for pharmacy workers, and continuing education for physicians and midwives in intervention cities and invited graduates to join the PREVEN Network. "Prevention Salespersons" visited pharmacies, boticas and clinicians regularly for educational support and collection of information on numbers of cases of STD syndromes seen at pharmacies and by clinicians in intervention cities. Simulated patients evaluated outcomes of training of pharmacy workers with respect to adequate STD syndrome management, recommendations for condom use and for treatment of partners. In intervention cities we trained, certified, and incorporated into the PREVEN Network the workers at 623 (80.6%) of 773 pharmacies and 701 (69.6%) of 1007 physicians and midwives in private practice. Extremely high clinician and pharmacy worker turnover, 13.4% and 44% respectively in the first year, dictated continued training of new pharmacy workers and clinicians. By the end of the intervention the Network included 792 pharmacies and 597 clinicians. Pharmacies reported more cases of STDs than did clinicians. Evaluations by simulated patients showed significant and substantial improvements in the management of STD syndromes at pharmacies in intervention cities but not in control cities.
Conclusions: Training pharmacy workers linked to a referral network of clinicians proved feasible and acceptable. High turn-over was challenging but over come.