Knowledge and misconceptions of Saudi women about sexually transmitted infections

Document Type : Original Article


Department of Dermatology, King Khalid University Hospital, King Saud University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia


Background: Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are increasingly becoming one of the most important health challenges , especially among women, as they bear long-term consequences such as infertility and cervical cancer owing to STIs. This study aimed to assess the knowledge and misconceptions of Saudi women about STIs.
Participants and Methods: A descriptive study was conducted among adult women attending the dermatology clinic at King Saud University Medical City, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, for reasons other than STIs. They were randomly approached and asked to complete an anonymous prevalidated questionnaire. Uneducated females were guided by an interviewer during the filling up of the survey questionnaire. Of 1150 women approached, 843 adult Saudi women responded to the survey (response rate: 73.3%).
Results: The mean age was 30.6±10.9 years. Knowledge of STIs was highest for HIV (85.9%) and lowest for genital warts (17.0%). Respondents believed that genital pruritus, foul discharge, and painful micturition are symptoms of STIs (71.1, 69.1, and 56.4%, respectively). A considerable percentage believed that STIs are transmitted by masturbation (54.8%), sleeping on contaminated beds (39.3%), and by eating and drinking from contaminated utensils (26.3%) whereas 8% believed that STIs are transmitted by shaking hands. Nearly two-thirds of women thought that condoms protect against STIs. Knowledge on the modes of transmission and symptoms of STIs was significantly correlated with younger age, higher level of education, and higher monthly income.
Conclusion and recommendations: Despite the huge campaigns and information about STIs seen on the internet and television by these women, there is still scarcity of knowledge on the more important aspects of STIs, especially the recognition of clinical features and modes of transmission/spread of STIs. There is still a need for health authorities to intensify information-dissemination campaigns about STIs to the grassroots level, particularly among women in Saudi Arabia.