To the Editor:
It seems that the term “core groups” by any other name might sound less accusatory. At the August 1995 meeting of the International Society for STD Research in New Orleans, Dr. Judith Wasserheit of the Centers for Disease Control suggested that “spread clusters” replace “core groups.” Whatever term is contemplated, it should reflect what has been learned about the community dimension of STD during the two decades since Yorke and his colleagues introduced “core groups.”1 Evidence is accumulating that sociosexual networks are the fundamental STD ecologic units.2,3 Although some social networks apparently have properties that facilitate STD propagation, others seemingly are configured to inhibit it.4 The former are core networks and probably form the scaffolding for the perpetuation of STDs in society. Not only may the term “core networks” better reflect our current understanding, but, by shifting the focus from people (“groups”) to structure (“networks”), it considerably attenuates any pejorative overtones of “core groups.” (Whereas “core clusters” also might satisfy these criteria, one wonders how long it would take some cheeky wit to transform it into “core clysters.”)
Nomenclature evolution is a fact of life in the STD field. During the last quarter century, VD evolved into STD, recidivist into repeater, prostitute into commercial sex worker, and contact tracing into partner notification. Maybe the “core groups” emperor needs new clothes. If so, perhaps your readers can help select appropriate verbal attire.
1. Yorke JA, Hethcote HW, Nold A. Dynamics and control of the transmission of gonorrhea. Sex Transm Dis 1978; 5:51–56.
2. Klovdahl AS. Social networks and the spread of infectious diseases: The AIDS example. Soc Sci Med 1985; 21:1203–1216.
3. Potterat JJ. ‘Socio-geographic space’ and sexually transmissible diseases in the 1990s. Today's Life Science 1992; 4:16–22, 31.
4. Woodhouse DE, Rothenberg RB, Potterat JJ, et al. Mapping a social network of heterosexuals at high risk of HIV infection. AIDS 1994; 8:1331–1336.