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Factors and the Sociosexual Network Associated With a Syphilis Outbreak in Rural North Carolina

Seña, Arlene C. MD, MPH*; Muth, Stephen Q. BA; Heffelfinger, James D. MD, MPH; O’Dowd, Judy Owen§; Foust, Evelyn§; Leone, Peter MD

Sexually Transmitted Diseases: May 2007 - Volume 34 - Issue 5 - p 280-287
doi: 10.1097/01.olq.0000237776.15870.c3

Objective: An investigation was conducted to determine factors associated with a syphilis outbreak in a rural North Carolina county.

Study Design: A retrospective chart review was performed on 61 primary (PS), secondary (SS), and early latent (ELS) syphilis case patients reported in Columbus County between January 2001 and February 2002. Sociosexual network analysis was conducted using electronic contact tracing information.

Results: We identified 20 PS, 25 SS, and 16 ELS case patients who were predominantly black. Seventy-two percent had reported ≥1 sexual partner with early syphilis, 51% used crack cocaine and/or had sex with a crack-using partner, and 31% exchanged sex for drugs or money. The sexual network exhibited predominantly linear connections between case patients and sexual partners. Adding social connections to the network further demonstrated dense cyclic interactions characteristic of core groups.

Conclusions: The syphilis outbreak in this rural community was associated with crack cocaine and exchange of sex for drugs in a densely interconnected sociosexual network.

A syphilis investigation conducted in a rural North Carolina county revealed an outbreak associated with crack cocaine and exchange of sex for drugs/money in a dense, interconnected sociosexual network.

© Copyright 2007 American Sexually Transmitted Diseases Association