Objective: To describe the contribution of primary care to the diagnosis and management of sexually transmitted infections in the United Kingdom, 1990-2000, in the context of increasing incidence of infections in genitourinary medicine clinics. Design: Population based study. Setting: UK primary care. Participants: Patients registered in the UK general practice research database. Main outcome measures: Incidence of diagnosed sexually transmitted infections in primary care and estimation of the proportion of major such infections diagnosed in primary care. Results: An estimated 23.0% of chlamydia cases in women but only 5.3% in men were diagnosed and treated in primary care during 1998-2000, along with 49.2% cases of non-specific urethritis and urethral discharge in men and 5.7% cases of gonorrhoea in women and 2.9% in men. Rates of diagnosis in primary care rose substantially in the late 1990s. Conclusions: A substantial and increasing number of sexually transmitted infections are diagnosed and treated in primary care in the United Kingdom, with sex ratios differing from those in genitourinary medicine clinics. Large numbers of men are treated in primary care for presumptive sexually transmitted infections.