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Comparison of Sex Partner Meeting Venues and Residences of Syphilis Cases in Baltimore

Michaud, Joshua M. MHS*; Johnson, Sheridan M.; Ellen, Jonathan MD*

Sexually Transmitted Diseases: April 2004 - Volume 31 - Issue 4 - p 239-242
doi: 10.1097/01.OLQ.0000118541.44827.92

Background Traditional syphilis control tools could be limited in high-risk groups in which the disease is concentrated. Novel programmatic methods such as tracking and targeting sex partner meeting venues could be valuable.

Goal The goals of this study were to determine if syphilis cases’ sex partner meeting venues are geographically different than their residences and to determine the characteristics of identified meeting places.

Results For cases diagnosed from September 2001 to December 2002 with geocodable data, only 9% of meetings took place in the same census block group as residence, and mean and median distance from residence to meeting place was 1.73 and 1.03 miles. The most common meeting location type overall was a street or corner, but differed by risk behaviors.

Conclusion Baltimore syphilis cases in general met sex partners outside their immediate neighborhoods. Meeting locations could provide new targets for syphilis control interventions.

A study of syphilis cases in Baltimore, Maryland, found that cases generally traveled outside their immediate neighborhoods to meet new partners, and distance traveled depended on behavioral risk factor.

*Department of Pediatrics, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland; and Baltimore City Health Department, Baltimore, Maryland

This work was supported by the Centers for Disease Control Syphilis Elimination funding for the Baltimore City Health Department.

The authors collected data during routine public health activities of disease control and analyzed data for program evaluation. This activity was therefore designated as public health practice and nonresearch. In accordance with the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 45, Part 46, The Public Service Act, human subjects review is not required for public health nonresearch activities.

The authors thank the Disease Intervention Staff and Supervisors of the Baltimore City Health Department for their daily dedication to the tough job of interviewing cases and finding disease. They also thank Baltimore’s Health Commissioner Peter Beilenson for his longstanding, consistent support of this initiative.

Correspondence: Joshua M. Michaud, MHS, 2700 Lighthouse Point East, Suite 210, Baltimore, MD 21224. E-mail:

Received for publication September 15, 2003,

revised November 19, 2003, and accepted November 25, 2003.

© Copyright 2004 American Sexually Transmitted Diseases Association