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A Comparison of Syphilis Partner Notification Outcomes by Reported Use of Internet-based Apps to Meet Sex Partners in North Carolina, 2013–2016

Mobley, Victoria, MD*; Cope, Anna, PhD; Dzialowy, Nicole, MSc*; Maxwell, Jason, BS*; Foust, Evelyn, MPH*; Samoff, Erika, PhD*

doi: 10.1097/OLQ.0000000000000884
Original Studies

Background Partner notification services (PNS) remain the backbone of syphilis control. The popularity of Internet-based apps to meet sex partners among early syphilis (ES) patients may hinder the success of PNS if partners cannot be located.

Methods We compared demographic and clinical characteristics between male ES patients indicating sex with men (MSM) and reported in North Carolina between 2013 and 2016 by reported use of an Internet-based app to meet sex partners (app user). We used multivariable log-binomial regression to assess the association between app usage and ES exposure notification of 1 or more sex partner.

Results Among 3414 MSM ES patients, 58.6% were app users. App users were more frequently white (33.2% vs 27.3%; P = 0.003), younger (median, 28 years vs 30 years; P = 0.0002) and less frequently human immunodeficiency virus coinfected (54.1% vs 58.2%; P = 0.02) compared to non-app users. Overall, 94.9% of app users and 89.6% of non-app users reported 1 or more sex partner. App users reported 2.5 times more locatable and 2.7 times more unlocatable sex partners than non-app users. Similar proportions of app (23.6%) and non-app users (25.0%) reported only unlocatable partners (P = 0.4). App usage was not associated with ES exposure notification of 1 or more sex partner (adjusted risk ratio, 0.99; 95% confidence interval, 0.87–1.13).

Conclusions We observed no difference in the proportion of locatable partners or likelihood of notifying 1 or more sex partner of exposure among MSM ES patients, by reported use of Internet-based apps to meet sex partners. Partner notification services continues to be an important mechanism to locate and assure treatment for sex partners in this population.

Among men who have sex with men diagnosed with early syphilis, the probability of notifying 1 or more sex partner did not differ by reported Internet-based app use to meet sex partners.

From the *North Carolina Division of Public Health, Department of Health and Human Services, Raleigh, NC; and

Division of STD Prevention, National Center for HIV, Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA

Acknowledgements: The authors thank all of the North Carolina Disease Intervention Specialists including our IPNS DIS, Steve Beagle, for their hard work and dedication to the health and safety of the patients they serve.

Conflict of Interest and Sources of Funding: None declared.

Among men who have sex with men diagnosed with early syphilis, the probability of notifying 1 or more sex partner did not differ by reported Internet-based app use to meet sex partners.

Correspondence: Victoria Mobley, MD, North Carolina Division of Public Health, Department of Health and Human Services, 1902 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-1902. E-mail: victoria.mobley@dhhs.nc.gov.

Received for publication April 27, 2018, and accepted June 20, 2018.

© Copyright 2018 American Sexually Transmitted Diseases Association