Contextual factors associated with treatment-seeking and higher-risk sexual behaviour in Botswana among men with symptoms of sexually transmitted infections
This study investigates contextual factors associated with treatment-seeking behaviour and higher-risk sexual conduct of men symptomatic of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in Botswana. Data were drawn from a randomly selected, nationally representative sample of 8 222 men, aged 15–64 years, who had reported having symptoms suggestive of an STI during the previous twelve months. Higher-risk behaviour continues to sustain the HIV epidemic in Botswana. At the heart of Botswana's epidemic lies men's reluctance to seek medical treatment, engaging in unprotected sex, and having sex with multiple partners while symptomatic of an STI. The odds of engaging in unprotected sex while symptomatic of an STI were significantly higher among teenage males and males in urban households. For every year's increase in the age difference between partners there was a 28% increase in the odds of the male having had unprotected sex. Being married and having had more than one sexual partner in the last year multiplied the odds of having unprotected sex while symptomatic of an STI by three times. The longer an infected man remained with symptoms before seeking help, the more likely it was to have unprotected sex while infected and the more likely to seek treatment from a traditional healer. Notably, having sought medical treatment from hospitals, clinics and health workers, as opposed to consulting traditional healers, significantly reduced the odds of having had unprotected sex while infected with an STI by 48%. The results indicate the need to encourage men to utilise public healthcare services. The public health sector in Botswana needs to provide healthcare services that are user-friendly for men. Increasing the number of treatment sites may also contribute to preventing onward transmission of STIs. Special attention needs to be paid to boys' socialisation towards gender norms, and men are to be encouraged to play a responsible role in HIV prevention.