Objective: To define the epidemiological characteristics of STD patients attending an outpatient clinic in rural Zimbabwe, to examine the aetiologic agents causing infection and to determine their relationship with HIV infection.
Subjects: 319 men and 146 women, making a sample of about 7% all patients attending an STD clinic during the 3 month study period. Microbiological data were collected from 104 men and 72 women selected randomly from these. Pregnant women were excluded and patients who had received antibiotics within the previous 14 days were excluded from the microbiology sub-sample.
Setting: An outpatient STD clinic at a District Hospital on a major truck route about 300 km north of the capital, Harare.
Methods: All new patients attending the clinic during a 3 month period were enrolled for clinical and epidemiological investigations using a standard procedure. Specimens for microbiological investigation were taken from every second patient seen on the first three days of each week.
Results: The typical patient was male (m:f ratio 2.2) aged 20-29 years (68% patients), not married (56% men) and in paid employment (66% men vs. 27% for the district). In men the most common presenting feature was genital ulceration, while in women, discharges were more common. Genital warts were noted frequently in both sexes. In the sub-sample examined microbiologically, H ducreyi was isolated from 46% ulcers clinically diagnosed as chancroid, and motile spirochaetes were detected in 25% painless ulcers. Neither of these were detected in ulcers in women, but HSV antigen was found as frequently in ulcers from men (19%) as from women (17%). In patients with genital discharges, gonococcal infection occurred in 64% men and 17% women, while T vaginalis was isolated from 39% women and only 8% men. Over 60% gonococcal isolates were PPNG, and 18% showed in vitro resistance to tetracycline. Yeasts, mainly C albicans were isolated from 42% women with a discharge and 25% women with ulcers. In men the presence of yeasts was associated with superficial ulceration and itchiness of the glans. Positive HIV-1 serology was found in 64% patients. There was no statistical association with current genital ulcers, though there was an association with previous STD episodes and particularly with serological evidence of syphilis. Apart from yeasts, there was no association between positive HIV-1 serology and the presence of pathogens in the genital tract.
Conclusions: The high prevalence of HIV-1 antibodies in STD patients in Karoi suggests integration of STD and AIDS control programmes to be a necessity. Since paid employment was a common feature of both STD clinic attendance and HIV-1 seropositivity, these programmes may be effectively directed through the work place.