Stretching the Boundaries: Tanzanian Pharmacy Workers' Views and Experiences of Providing STI Services for Men Who Have Sex with Men

PLoS One. 2016 Nov 3;11(11):e0166019. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0166019. eCollection 2016.


Objective: To explore the views and experiences of providing assistance and treatment of sexually transmitted infections to same-sex practicing male clients among service providers at pharmacies and drugstores in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Previous research suggests that sexually transmitted infections are an increasing concern for this population. Due to stigma and discrimination, men who have sex with men face limited access to treatment, which might contribute to increased self-medication. However, limited research has been conducted on the role of the pharmaceutical service provider with regards to this population in sub-Saharan Africa.

Method: In January 2016, 16 service providers at private pharmacies and drugstores with previous experience of providing services to this population were purposively selected for open-ended face-to-face interviews. The analysis was guided by the grounded theory approach.

Results: The process that emerged was labelled "Stretching Boundaries for Pharmaceutical Responsibilities". This reflected informants' perceptions of themselves as being involved in a transition from having limited engagement in the care of same-sex practicing male clients to becoming regular service-providers to this group. Findings further revealed that the emotional commitment they developed for clients through this process led to a transgression of provider-client boundaries, which undermined objective decision-making when clients lacked prescription. Financial interests also emerged as an underlying motivation for providing incomplete or inaccurate drug dosages.

Conclusions: Further studies are required to better address incentives related to unregulated sale of drugs. Inter-professional networks between pharmacy and healthcare workers could support the development of targeted treatment for men who have sex with men and other key populations.

MeSH terms

  • Empathy
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Homosexuality, Male / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Motivation
  • Pharmacies*
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases / drug therapy
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases / psychology*
  • Social Stigma
  • Tanzania

Grant support

This study was supported by grants from the Swedish Research Council (, project grant number 2014-2649 (AA). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.