Management rates of sexually transmissible infections by Australian general practitioners, 2000-2012

Sex Health. 2014 Mar;11(1):52-7. doi: 10.1071/SH13179.


Background In Australia, general practitioners (GPs) manage the majority of sexually transmissible infections (STIs). Most STIs are diagnosed and treated by GPs as a result of symptom recognition or risk identification. We aimed to determine how frequently six common STIs were managed by GPs, the characteristics of the GPs and patients, and any changes over time.

Methods: Data from the Bettering the Evaluation and Care of Health (BEACH) program for April 2000-March 2012 were analysed. BEACH is a national study of GP activity. The overall management rates of genital herpes (herpes simplex virus, HSV), genital warts, HIV, chlamydia (Chlamydia trachomatis), gonorrhoea (Neisseria gonorrhoeae) and syphilis were calculated.

Results: In total, 11784 GPs recorded details of 1178400 patient encounters. These included: 115 cases of genital HSV per 100000 encounters, 92 of genital warts, 67 of HIV, 39 of chlamydia, 6 of gonorrhoea and 7 of syphilis. Higher management rates occurred among patients who were male, 15-24 years old, more socially advantaged, Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, resident in a major city or of English-speaking background. GPs who were female and those aged under 60 years had higher STI management rates than their counterparts.

Conclusions: HSV and warts were the most common STIs managed. Lower management rates for the other STIs may reflect lower incidence or lower testing rates, because these other STIs are frequently asymptomatic. It is important to determine whether existing approaches effectively target the most at-risk communities and what barriers to presentation exist.