Objective: To examine knowledge and practices in relation to sexually transmissible diseases (STDs) of general practitioners (GPs) in Victoria, Australia.
Method: A questionnaire was distributed to 520 Victorian GPs randomly selected from the Australian Medical Publishing Company (AMPCo) database of Australian medical practitioners.
Results: A response rate of 85% was obtained. While sexual health consultations were common for Victorian GPs, STD caseloads were generally low. Knowledge of clinical features of symptomatic STDs and of important STD epidemiology was generally good although there was a lower awareness of the asymptomatic nature of the most prevalent STDs in Victoria. Diagnostic tests were generally selected appropriately although many GPs did not perform the gold standard combination of tests required for adequate differential diagnosis. Level of STD STD knowledge was related to frequency of advising about safe sex, diagnosing STDs, and younger practitioner age. Attendance at any of a number of postgraduate courses of relevance to the management of STDs was not related to better STD knowledge overall.
Conclusions: Prevention and detection of STDs in general practice involve risk assessment and screening of asymptomatic patients as well as effective treatment of symptomatic patients and their contacts. Results presented here suggest that GPs have good knowledge and use appropriate investigations for patients presenting with symptoms of an STD. The low levels of awareness of the asymptomatic nature of many STDs and other particular aspects of STD knowledge and practice should be addressed in undergraduate and postgraduate medical education programmes.