Sexual relations are the predominant mode of transmission of more than twenty micro-organisms pathogenic to the human species that are widespread in most regions of the world, particularly in developing countries. Certain sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) influence the AIDS epidemic itself by facilitating the acquisition of HIV (Wasserheit, 1992). A randomized controlled trial in Tanzania recently showed that improvement in the treatment of symptomatic STDs caused the rate of HIV incidence to fall by approximately 40 per cent (Grosskurth et al., 1995). Moreover, although HIV is the pathogen behind the STD epidemic giving most cause for concern at the present time, the high morbidity associated with other infections (female infertility, ectopic pregnancies, genital cancers, systemic complications and neonatal infections) also makes them major public health problems (Holmes et al., 1990).
The prevalence of various risk behaviours has been compared by Per Magnus (Chapter 6). The objective of this chapter is to study similarities and differences in the frequency of STD reporting according to sociodemographic characteristics, since STDs are potential consequences of high-risk behaviours. Analysis of the information collected about STD history in the European surveys reviewed here is limited by the small number of subjects in each sample who reported such infections. The joint study of these data provides an opportunity for interpreting associations that are not statistically significant but tend to be similar in several surveys. We shall thus examine to what extent the results can help us compare the epidemiology of
*The author would like to thank Béatrice Ducot and Laurence Meyer for their judicious advice.