BACKGROUND: The serious long-term complications of sexually transmitted infections (STI) in women and newborns are well-documented. Particularly, STI imply considerable social consequences for women. Low STI knowledge has been shown to be associated with unsafe sex. In Vietnam, misconceptions regarding STI exist, and rural women delay seeking care for STI. The aim of the study was to investigate knowledge of STI among women aged 15 to 49 years in a rural district of Vietnam and to evaluate possible associations between socioeconomic factors and STI knowledge. METHODS: A cross-sectional population-based study using face-to-face interviews was carried out between March and May 2006 in a demographic surveillance site in rural Vietnam. In total, 1805 women aged 15-49 years were randomly selected to participate in the study. The interviews were based on a structured questionnaire including questions on sociodemographic characteristics of the women and their knowledge about STI. Each correct answer was scored 1, incorrect or do not know answer was scored 0. Multivariate analyses were applied to examine associations between socio-economic conditions and STI knowledge. Intra-cluster correlation was calculated to examine similarities of STI knowledge within clusters. RESULTS: Of the 1,805 respondents, 78% (73% married vs. 93% unmarried, p < 0.001) did not know any symptoms of STI, 50% could not identify any cause of STI, 59% (54% married vs. 76% unmarried, p < 0.001) did not know that STI can be prevented. Only 31% of the respondents (36% married vs. 14% unmarried, p < 0.001) answered that condom use could protect against STI, and 56% considered partner treatment necessary. Of 40 possible correct answers, the mean knowledge score was 6.5 (range 0-26, median 6). Young, unmarried women and women who lived in the highlands or mountainous areas demonstrated very low levels of STI knowledge (regression coefficients -1.3 and -2.5, respectively, p < 0.001). Experience of an induced abortion was significantly associated with a higher level of knowledge. CONCLUSION: The low levels of STI knowledge found among women of reproductive age in a rural district of Vietnam indicate an urgent need of health education interventions, of which, young and unmarried women should be specifically targeted.