Background: Little is known about the characteristics of sex partners among persons diagnosed with gonorrhea. Population-level characteristics of recent partnerships are useful for understanding transmission pattern differences for specific populations and for developing targeted gonorrhea control activities.
Methods: A random sample of cases reported in 2010–2012 was identified and patients interviewed in 12 geographically diverse areas collaborating in SSuN. Data were weighted to provide overall estimates of partnership characteristics among persons reported with gonorrhea. The number and gender of sex partners reported in the previous three months and the age, race and Hispanic ethnicity of the most recent sex partner (MRSP) were ascertained. Differences by index patient characteristics were described.
Results: Of 218,189 reported cases, 15,014 (6.9%) were interviewed. Among all cases, the mean number of partners reported in the previous three months was 2.5 (95% CI 2.4–2.7), the proportion reporting that their MRSP was within five years of their own age was 68.4% (95% CI 66.6–70.2) and proportion reporting MRSP of the same race/ethnicity was 68.1% (95% CI 66.2–69.9). Significant differences were observed by gender of sex partner status and race/ethnicity. Men-who-have-sex-with-men (MSM) had more partners in the previous three months than heterosexuals (means= 4.4 vs. 1.9, p<0.0001), were more likely than heterosexuals to report MRSP of different race and/or ethnicity (36.7% vs. 20.1%, p<0.0001) and more likely than heterosexuals to report MRSP more than five years older/younger (37.8% vs. 19.1%, P<0.0001). Among heterosexuals, non-Hispanic blacks were less likely than others to report MRSP of different race (10.4% vs. 39.0% p<0.0001) and less likely than others to report MRSP more than five years older/younger (17.6% vs. 21.6%, P=0.03).
Conclusions: Number and characteristics of recent sex partners vary significantly by MSM status and by race/Hispanic ethnicity. These findings are consistent with, and may help to explain, observed incidence patterns.