Self-administered sampling techniques for the detection of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are particularly useful due to their ease of collection and better patient compliance. Urine specimens, and recently tampons, have been described as methods of specimen collection for the detection of some STDs in women. In this study, 660 women had both first-void urine (FVU) and tampon specimens analysed by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) for the detection of Chlamydia trachomatis, Neisseria gonorrhoeae and Trichomonas vaginalis. Overall 6.5%, 10.1% and 17.9% of urine samples were positive whereas 7%, 21.2% and 22% of tampon specimens were positive for C. trachomatis, N. gonorrhoeae and T. vaginalis respectively. Tampon-collected specimens tested by PCR were more sensitive than urine specimens for the detection of N. gonorrhoeae and T. vaginalis (P < 0.001) and equally sensitive for the detection of C. trachomatis (P=0.45).