Does physician bias affect the quality of care they deliver? Evidence in the care of sexually transmitted infections Academic Article uri icon


  • Primary care providers are well placed to control the spread of sexually transmitted infections (STI); however, care is likely to be influenced by their attitudes and beliefs. The present study investigates the relationship between general practitioner's (GP) self-reported level of comfort in dealing with patients with STI and the care they deliver.A postal survey was conducted using a stratified random sample of 15% of GPs practising in New South Wales, Australia, to assess practitioners' management of STI. A total of 409 GPs participated in the study yielding a response rate of 45.4%.Although over two-thirds (69-72%) of GPs were comfortable in managing STI in heterosexual or young patients, fewer than half (40-46%) felt comfortable caring for patients who were sex workers, indigenous, people who inject drugs, gay or lesbian. Practitioners who were comfortable were more likely to offer sexual risk assessment, safe-sex counselling, and were less likely to report limited ability to influence patients' risk behaviours. Practitioner discomfort was positively associated with reporting constraints in sexual history-taking and the need for training in sexual health.Practitioners' care and support for patients with STI are influenced by their inexperience, lack of skills and/or attitudes. The reasons for GP discomfort in managing STI patients need further exploration as does its impact on patient care.

publication date

  • April 1, 2008