Background: Emergency contraception (EC) has been available in Australia without prescription since 2003. However, there has been little research into the extent of knowledge of the actions, effectiveness and availability of EC among the general population.
Aims: To determine the extent of knowledge of EC among tertiary students in Far North Queensland, and their ability to access EC in the region.
Methods: A questionnaire was distributed to tertiary students in Cairns asking about their knowledge of EC, its effectiveness and its availability over-the-counter in pharmacies, as well as their willingness to access EC themselves if indicated, in settings in which they may be known, and in those where they would be unknown.
Results: Of 500 questionnaires 460 were returned; 29% of participants had used EC in the past. Only 20% understood the correct timeframe in which EC can be used; 40% were not aware of its availability over-the-counter in pharmacies, and more than 20% felt unable to purchase EC in a pharmacy where they could be recognised. Only 44% of participants were aware of the cost of EC.
Conclusion: A significant lack of information regarding the availability, methods of action and limitations of EC was noted in this well-educated population. There was also a high proportion of participants who felt unable to access EC in a pharmacy where they might be known, a factor limiting accessibility of the method in small town and community settings.