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Open Access Research article

Setting up a surveillance system for sexually transmitted diseases in the general population with prospective data collection from private-practice and public-practice doctors in Hong Kong

Joseph TF Lau12*, Chunqing Lin1, King Man Ho3, Man Chun Lau1, Hi Yi Tsui1, Jing Gu4 and Kuen Kong Lo3

Author Affiliations

1 Centre for Health Behaviours Research, School of Public Health and Primary Care, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong SAR, China

2 Centre for Medical Anthropology and Behavioral Health, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou, China

3 Social Hygiene Service Headquarter, the Public Health Service Branch, Center for Health Protection, Department of Health, Hong Kong SAR, China

4 Department of Medical Statistics and Epidemiology, School of Public Health, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou, China

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BMC Public Health 2011, 11:254  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-254

Published: 21 April 2011



Existing surveillance systems for sexually transmitted diseases (STD) and reproductive tract infections (RTI) are important but often ineffective, as they tend to omit cases diagnosed by private-practice doctors


During a 15-day study period, 277 private-practice doctors and all public-practice doctors of all the eight local Social Hygiene Clinics (SHC) in Hong Kong filled out daily a standard log-form, recording the number of patients diagnosed with particular types of STD/RTI. Projections for all local private-practice and public-practice doctors were made by the stratification method.


Data showed that 0.75% of private patients and 40.92% of public patients presented the listed STD/RTI syndromes. It is projected that 12,504 adults were diagnosed with such syndromes by all local private-practice (10,204) or public-practice doctors (2,300); 0.22% (male: 0.26%; female: 0.18%) of the local adult population would fall into this category. The ratio of STD/RTI cases, diagnosed by private-practice versus public-practice doctors, was 4:1. Of the participating private-practice doctors, 96% found the process easy to administer and 75% believed that it was feasible for such a STD/RTI surveillance system to be implemented annually.


Surveillance of STD/RTI based only on data obtained from the public health system is inadequate. Data obtained from public-practice and private-practice doctors are very different and the majority of the patients presented their STD/RTI syndromes to private-practice doctors. The proposed, improved surveillance system is feasible and has the strengths of involving both private-practice and public-practice medical practitioners and being well accepted by private-practice doctors.