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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Young women's decisions to accept chlamydia screening: influences of stigma and doctor-patient interactions

Myles Balfe1*, Ruairi Brugha1, Diarmuid O'Donovan2, Emer O'Connell2 and Deirdre Vaughan2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Dublin, Ireland

2 Department of Health Promotion, National University of Ireland Galway, Galway, Ireland

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BMC Public Health 2010, 10:425  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-425

Published: 19 July 2010



An understanding of the factors that encourage young women to accept, and discourage them from accepting, STI (sexually transmitted infection) testing is needed to underpin opportunistic screening programs for the STI Chlamydia trachomatis (opportunistic screening involves healthcare professionals offering chlamydia tests to people while they are attending health services for reasons that are usually unrelated to their sexual health). We conducted a qualitative study to identify and explore: how young women would feel about being offered opportunistic tests for chlamydia?; how young women would like to be offered screening, and who they wanted to be offered screening by?; and what factors would influence young women's partner notification preferences for chlamydia (who they would notify in the event of a positive diagnosis of chlamydia, how they would want to do this).


Semi-structured interviews with 35 young women between eighteen and twenty nine years of age. The study was conducted in the Dublin and Galway regions of the Republic of Ireland. Young adults were recruited from General Practice (GP) practices, Third Level College health services, Family Planning clinics and specialist STI treatment services.


Respondents were worried that their identities would become stigmatised if they accepted screening. Younger respondents and those from lower socio-economic backgrounds had the greatest stigma-related concerns. Most respondents indicated that they would accept screening if it was offered to them, however; accepting screening was seen as a correct, responsible action to engage in. Respondents wanted to be offered screening by younger female healthcare professionals. Respondents were willing to inform their current partners about positive chlamydia diagnoses, but were more ambivalent about informing their previous partners.


If an effort is not put into reducing young women's stigma-related concerns the population coverage of Chlamydia screening might be reduced.