Background & objectives: Providing sexually transmitted infection (STI) services to female sex workers (FSWs) in rural and resource constrained settings is a challenge. This paper describes an approach to address this challenge through a partnership with government health facilities, and examines the effect of this partnership on the utilization of STI services by FSWs in Andhra Pradesh, India.
Methods: Partnerships were formed with 46 government clinics located in rural areas for providing STI treatment to FSWs in 2007. Government health facilities were supported by local and State level non-government organizations (NGOs) through provision of medicines, training of medical staff, outreach in the communities, and other coordination activities. Data from programme monitoring and behaviour tracking survey were used to examine the accessibility and acceptability in utilization of STI services from partnership clinics.
Results: The number of FSWs accessing services at the partnership clinics increased from 1627 in 2007 to over 15,000 in 2010. The average number of annual visits by FSWs to these clinics in 2010 was 3.4. In opinion surveys, the majority of FSWs accessing services at the partnership clinics expressed confidence that they would continue to receive effective services from the government facilities even if the programme terminates. The overall attitude of FSWs to visit government clinics was more positive among FSWs from partnership clinic areas compared to those from non-partnership clinic areas.
Interpretation & conclusions: The partnership mechanism between the NGO-supported HIV prevention programme and government clinic facilities appeared to be a promising opportunity to provide timely and accessible STI services for FSWs living in rural and remote areas.