Background: Effective intervention for STDs involves not only treating diagnosed individuals, but also ensuring that all recent, potentially exposed sexual partners are also successfully treated. Identifying characteristics associated with untreated partners may help identify methods to reduce additional disease transmission and prevent repeat infections.
Methods: Participating localities in Virginia conduct phone interviews with individuals recently diagnosed with gonorrhea, as part of the STD Surveillance Network (SSuN) activities. These interview data were used to assess gonorrhea patients’ knowledge of their partners’ treatment status. Correlations between such knowledge and patient characteristics, risk behaviors, and subsequent repeat infections were examined. Data collected from 2010-2013 included approximately 1,700 patient interviews. Preliminary bivariate analyses were followed by binary and ordinal logistic regression modeling to identify risk factors for patient knowledge and for re-infection.
Results: Women were more likely than men to be unsure of their partner’s treatment status (45% vs. 41%), and women were also more than twice as likely to report that their partners had not been treated (9.2% vs. 4.3%). Patient race, age, and education were not associated with being unaware of partner’s treatment status. Patients who were unsure of their partner’s treatment status were significantly less likely to report having sex with that partner since their own diagnosis (OR = 5.8, 95% CI: 4.4-7.8). Among men, multiple recent sex partners, a previous gonorrhea diagnosis in the past year, and chlamydia co-infection were all associated with being unsure of their partner’s treatment status. Over one-fifth of interviewed patients had repeat gonorrhea infections, but re-infection was not associated with knowledge of partner’s treatment.
Conclusions: Patient knowledge of their partner’s treatment status varied only slightly by most demographic characteristics and risk factors, but it did influence subsequent sexual encounters. Other characteristics of gonorrhea repeaters may be better suited to inform targeted prevention efforts to reduce re-infection rates.