New York: Training doctors can help reduce the risk of many sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, according to a new study.
The study was conducted in China, which continues to battle epidemics of many sexually transmitted infections (STI).
"Our trial showed, for the first time, that providing systematic training about HIV and STI prevention, treatment, and behavioural counselling to physicians in China can lead to improved levels of knowledge among those physicians as well as lower levels of new STIs among their patients," said study lead author Don Operario from Brown University School of Public Health in the US.
"This trial demonstrates the population-level implications of educating physicians on HIV and STI prevention, treatment, and counseling," Operario added.
The study was a randomised controlled trial of an intensive, customised training programme for physicians in sexually transmitted infections.
"Over the past 10 years, HIV started to become transmitted more widely through sexual intercourse, reaching virtually all parts of China. It has now become a priority in China's health system," Operario noted.
The researchers recruited 249 doctors who saw STI patients at 51 county hospitals with more than 1,100 patients.
Doctors received a week of on-site education in HIV and STIs including disease biology, epidemiology, treatment, behavioural intervention and stigma reduction.
Patients were also asked at the beginning and end about their behaviors such as condom use and were tested for chlamydia and gonorrhea.
At the nine-month mark, patients of doctors who received the training were not only significantly less likely to have an STI and were also less likely to report engaging in unprotected sex and had higher HIV and STI knowledge.
The results showed, doctors who received the training had 38 percent lower odds of being infected with gonorrhea or chlamydia within the next nine months than patients of doctors who hadn't received the training by then.
"I am currently working with colleagues at Anhui Medical University to develop interventions to reduce HIV and STIs in these high-risk groups," Operario concluded.
The study was published in the journal Lancet Global Health.