Understanding the factors affecting global political priority for controlling sexually transmitted infections: a qualitative policy analysis.

Wu, Dadong; Low, Nicola; Hawkes, Sarah J (2024). Understanding the factors affecting global political priority for controlling sexually transmitted infections: a qualitative policy analysis. BMJ Global Health, 9(1), e014237. BMJ Publishing Group: Open Access 10.1136/bmjgh-2023-014237

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Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are a significant public health challenge, but there is a perceived lack of political priority in addressing STIs as a global health issue. Our study aimed to understand the determinants of global political priority for STIs since the 1980s and to discern implications for future prioritisation.


Through semistructured interviews from July 2021 to February 2022, we engaged 20 key stakeholders (8 women, 12 men) from academia, United Nations agencies, international non-governmental organisations, philanthropic organisations and national public health agencies. A published policy framework was employed for thematic analysis, and findings triangulated with relevant literature and policy documents. We examined issue characteristics, prevailing ideas, actor power dynamics and political contexts.


A contrast in perspectives before and after the year 2000 emerged. STI control was high on the global health agenda during the late 1980s and 1990s, as a means to control HIV. A strong policy community agreed on evidence about the high burden of STIs and that STI management could reduce the incidence of HIV. The level of importance decreased when further research evidence did not find an impact of STI control interventions on HIV incidence. Since 2000, cohesion in the STI community has decreased. New framing for broad STI control has not emerged. Interventions that have been funded, such as human papillomavirus vaccination and congenital syphilis elimination have been framed as cancer control or improving newborn survival, rather than as STI control.


Globally, the perceived decline in STI control priority might stem from discrepancies between investment choices and experts' views on STI priorities. Addressing STIs requires understanding the intertwined nature of politics and empirical evidence in resource allocation. The ascent of universal health coverage presents an opportunity for integrated STI strategies but high-quality care, sustainable funding and strategic coordination are essential.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


04 Faculty of Medicine > Pre-clinic Human Medicine > Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine (ISPM)

UniBE Contributor:

Low, Nicola


600 Technology > 610 Medicine & health
300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 360 Social problems & social services




BMJ Publishing Group: Open Access




Pubmed Import

Date Deposited:

24 Jan 2024 11:27

Last Modified:

01 Feb 2024 16:02

Publisher DOI:


PubMed ID:


Additional Information:

Nicola Low is corresponding author (equals first/last authorship).

Uncontrolled Keywords:

HIV health policy other infection, disease, disorder, or injury qualitative study





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