Objectives:: To characterize client demographics, sexually transmitted diseases (STD) morbidity, insurance status, reasons for attending public STD clinics, and future preferences for source of STD services.
Design:: Cross‐sectional study of 2,490 clients attending five urban STD clinics for new problems with interviewer‐administered 23‐item questionnaire and chart review to obtain clinical and laboratory STD diagnoses.
Results:: Participants were young (51% <25 years of age), minority (64% nonwhite), poor (43% ≤$10,000/year), and largely uninsured (59% uninsured, 27% private insurance, and 14% Medicaid). Half had previously visited the STD clinic, and 81% had used other providers for non‐STD services in the prior 3 years. STD symptoms were cited as the reason for the visit by 63%. The most common factors associated with seeking care at these STD clinics were walk‐in services, costs, and confidentiality concerns. STD morbidity was high; 66% of clients were diagnosed with one or more STD. Most (68%) clients preferred to be treated at the STD clinic in the future if they could go anywhere for STD services.
Conclusions:: STD clinics see young, minority, poor, and uninsured clients with high STD rates. Even with unlimited future choice, two thirds of the clients surveyed would still prefer to be treated at STD clinics. This study indicates the continuing need for publicly funded, categorical STD clinics in urban areas with high STD morbidity and the importance of easily accessible, confidential, expert STD services from the private sector and managed care organizations.