Abstract

Subsequent to recommendations from the 1994 United Nations International Conference on Population and Development, and given recent findings outlining the links between control of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and a reduction in HIV incidence, many countries are now seeking to establish STI control programmes. In many cases this is through a policy of providing comprehensive reproductive health care through the maternal and child health/family planning (MCH-FP) system. This involves management of all reproductive tract infections including STIs. This paper demonstrates how such an approach may miss one of the largest target groups - men. In general, men are at higher risk of initially contracting STIs, but, once infected, their clinical management is usually simpler than treating equivalent infections in women. It is argued that these two factors alone make the inclusion of men in STI control programmes critical. The paper outlines the experiences of one programme in rural Bangladesh in establishing sexual health clinics for men within the existing service structure. In response to client demand, the clinics moved beyond simple STI care towards provision of comprehensive sexual health services. Finally, the paper argues that whilst including men in sexual health programmes should never be at the expense of providing services for women, excluding them from service provision may make the objectives of STI control programmes unattainable.