Indian J Sex Transm Dis Indian J Sex Transm Dis
Official Publication of the Indian Association for the Study of Sexually Transmitted Diseases
Indian J Sex Transm Dis
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Year : 2023  |  Volume : 44  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 56-63

Redefining venereology practice in Tamil Nadu, South India – Nakshatra Health – A networking model

1 Nakshatra Health Clinics, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
2 Department of DVL, Government Erode Medical College Hospital, Perundurai, Tamil Nadu, India
3 Department of DVL, KAPV Medical College Hospital, Tiruchirappalli, Tamil Nadu, India
4 Department of DVL, Tirunelveli Medical College Hospital, Tirunelveli, Tamil Nadu, India

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Mahalingam Periasamy
Nakshatra Health Clinics, 205, 6th street, Thanigachalam Nagar F Block, Ponniammanmedu, Chennai - 600 110
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/ijstd.ijstd_13_23

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Background: Accessing care for sexual health has always been a challenge in our Indian context. The primary reason is a lack of awareness of modes of transmission of sexually transmitted diseases (STD), appropriate testing, and treatment options. The second is taboo associated with the morality of the individual. The third is the accessibility and availability of Quality STD care by allopathic specialists in comparison to the demand. This has paved way for lots of myths and misconceptions among the general public regarding STDs and HIV disease. Compounding it is the mushrooming of nonqualified practitioners and healers who claim to cure all STDs and HIV has led to poor treatment outcomes. Several methods of partnership with qualified allopathic practitioners have been tried for the provision of quality STD care by various donor-funded, HIV and STD prevention programs in the country. The key reasons for the nonsustainability of these clinics were the lack of technical capability to handle the sexual health and STD clinical cases and the huge cost involved in the advertisement and maintenance of the clinics. Methodology: Seven clinicians from different geographical locations in Tamil Nadu, who were exclusively qualified in Venereology, conceived the idea of provision of comprehensive clinical care cum counseling and testing services through a networking model from December 01, 2020. The model comprised the following: (1) Dedicated YouTube channel (Nakshatra Health) to provide scientific information on STD and HIV, modes of transmission, clinical symptoms, lab testing, interpretation of results, clinical treatment options, and counseling on prevention, (2) Dedicated telephone helpline was established with WhatsApp to answer the queries of clients by the network venereologists, (3) Dedicated website ( was developed to provide information on STD and HIV and options to clarify doubts and fix appointments online, (4) Clinical consultations were done in a hybrid mode with an option for direct clinic and online consultation. Prescriptions were provided using dedicated software instantly, (5) Networking was done with NABL-accredited labs and collection centers for performing STD and HIV tests with e-test request forms, (6) Networking was done with pharma companies to provide pre- and postexposure prophylaxis (PEP) services to clients through e-prescriptions. Cross referrals were made across the network members to facilitate easy access to clinical services by clients from different parts of Tamil Nadu. The entire concept was branded as “Nakshatra health” with a tagline – “Your sparkling solution for safe sexual health care.” Quality STD care and ethical practice were the underlying motos of this concept. Results: During the 20 months (December 2020 to July 2022), 6442 phone calls and 9328 WhatsApp messages were received. 82.3% of the calls and messages were queries from clients related to their sexual exposures, and 16.4% were general information seekers. During this period, the Nakshatra Health YouTube channel had 1590 subscribers and nearly 2.4 lakh views of all its 24 videos. Among the viewers, 92.4% were male. 52.29% of viewers were between the ages of 25 and 34 years, 28.25% were between the ages of 18 and 24 years, and 17.25% viewers were between the ages of 35 and 44 years. 86% of the viewers were from India and 13% were Tamil-speaking viewers from Middle East, Southeast Asian countries and 1% were from European, African, and American countries. The most commonly watched videos were related to HIV symptoms and lab tests for STD and HIV. 16% of the viewers repeatedly watched the various videos in the series. The network laboratories provided testing services for 1082 clients with 2423 various STD/HIV tests. Totally 3328 clients availed of online consultation and 924 clients accessed clinic-based services across the network members. Among these cases, 18 cases of Syphilis (primary and secondary) and 12 cases of acute gonococcal urethritis, and 10 cases of genital warts were diagnosed and treated. 12 cases of phimosis and 4 cases of anal warts were surgically treated in collaboration with a surgeon. Through this initiative, PEP and PreP services were provided to 228 and 8 individuals. Conclusion: Designing a comprehensive sexual health service package is crucial to ensure the availability and ease of access to services to the general public. Provision of correct scientific information, networking and cross-referral of cases with like-minded dermatovenereologists/clinicians interested in venereology sexually transmitted infections, easily accessible clinical, laboratory, and treatment services including PreP and PEP medications, and ethical practice are the key factors for scaling this concept.

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