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Original article

Vol. 141 No. 0910 (2011)

Talking about sexuality with the physician: are patients receiving what they wish?

  • G Meystre-Agustoni
  • A Jeannin
  • Heller de
  • F Dubois-Arber
Cite this as:
Swiss Med Wkly. 2011;141:w13178


QUESTIONS UNDER STUDY/PRINCIPLES: Little is known concerning patients’ expectations regarding sexual history taking by doctors: to ascertain expectations and actual experience of talking about sexuality among male patients attending outpatient clinics, and their sexual behaviour.

METHODS: Patients consecutively recruited from two outpatient clinics in Lausanne, Switzerland were provided with an anonymous self-administered questionnaire. Survey topics were: patients’ expectations concerning sexual history taking, patients’ lifetime experience of sexual history taking, and patients’ sexual behaviour.

RESULTS: The response rate was 53.0% (N = 1452). Among respondents, 90.9% would like their physician to ask them questions regarding their sexual history in order to receive advice on prevention (60.0% yes, 30.9% rather yes). Fifteen percent would be embarrassed or rather embarrassed if asked such questions. Nevertheless, 76.2% of these individuals would like their physician to do so. Despite these wishes, only 40.5% reported ever having a discussion “on their sexual life in general” with a doctor. Only one patient out of four to five was asked about previous sexually transmitted infections (STIs), the number of sexual partners and their sexual orientation.

No feature of their sexual life distinguishes those who had discussed sexual issues with a doctor from those who had not, except a history of previous consultation for health problems related to sexuality. Conversely, being embarrassed about conducting this discussion was significantly associated with lack of discussion regarding sexuality.

CONCLUSIONS: This study highlights the gap existing in the field of STI prevention in terms of doctors’ advice and patients’ wishes.


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