Leukorrhea, or vaginal discharge, is often a primary presenting symptom of sexually transmitted disease (STD) in women of rural Himalayan communities of India. Given the rising prevalence of leukorrhea in these communities, understanding the baseline knowledge and barriers to treatment among women and health-workers is imperative to improving awareness and implementing effective treatment.
This study took place in the Himalayan South Asian region of Nainital from May to July of 2013. Data was collected from structured interviews administered in the local language. One questionnaire was administered to women attending NGO-led health camps and a second questionnaire was administered to local health-workers over phone.
Over 95% of women and all surveyed health-workers were unaware of the association between leukorrhea and STDs. 68% of women surveyed had experienced leukorrhea. Over 80% of women diagnosed with an STD sought medical treatment after waiting at least one month, citing distance, belief that the symptom would clear up, and not finding the symptom severe as reasons. All health-workers considered the husbands a significant factor preventing adequate treatment of women.
Our study demonstrates that despite rising prevalence of leukorrhea within the rural Himalayan communities, there is a lack of awareness among residents and health-workers that STDs are a potential etiology of leukorrhea. Barriers to effective treatment among women diagnosed with STDs who presented with leukorrhea include, financial costs, distance to travel to an allopathic doctor, and a general belief that the disease will resolve on its own.