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The Italian STD ‘Hot-Line’: Making People Aware


doi: 10.1097/01.OLQ.0000078631.66574.A9

Background To increase the accessibility of qualified and anonymous information on sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in Italy, a national telephone hotline was initiated in February 1997.

Goal The goal was to determine the profile of callers to the national STD hotline, assess their concerns, identify their sources for the hotline telephone number, and to compare callers’ disease interests with diagnoses made at STD clinics.

Study Design The survey analyzed 3577 calls received from February 1997 to December 1999. Hotline operators addressed callers’ questions, asked 6 short-answer questions, and recorded the data collected.

Results The survey showed callers’ sex distribution (49.8% women, 50.2% men), average age (women's mean ± standard deviation [SD], 34.3 ±11.8 y; men's mean ± SD, 36.2 ± 12.2 y), level of education (66.4% had a secondary school degree), residence (47.9% northern part of Italy), risk category (44% reported being definitely infected by a STD), specific disease interest (30% were concerned about HIV), and source of hotline telephone number (67.3% learned the hotline telephone number from magazines or newspapers). Hotline callers’ specific disease interests were compared with diagnoses made at STD clinics; the top 4 disease concerns of hotline callers were HIV, genital herpes, human papillomavirus/genital warts, and mycosis, whereas the top 4 diagnoses made at STD clinics were genital warts, nonspecific vaginitis, nonspecific urethritis, and genital herpes.

Conclusion The hotline seems to be an effective way to deliver information and to allay fears about STDs, although it needs to be promoted more widely, especially in central and southern Italy.

A national telephone hotline was established in Italy in 1997 to deliver information and to allay fears on sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). This survey shows the results of the first 3 years of activity.

From the Department of Gynecological, Obstetric and Pediatric Sciences, Section of Gynecology, Unit of Colposcopy, University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, Modena, Italy

Correspondence: Fausto Boselli, MD, Dipartimento di Scienze Ginecologiche, Ostetriche e Pediatriche, Sezione di Ginecologia e Ostetricia, Policlinico di Modena, Via del Pozzo 71, 41100 Modena, Italy. E-mail:

Received January 21, 2003,

revised May 2, 2003, and accepted May 5, 2003.

© Copyright 2003 American Sexually Transmitted Diseases Association