Abstract

Background: Infectious syphilis has increased substantially over the past decade. Targeting limited public health resources toward subpopulations with multiple reinfections may have a large impact in reducing onward transmission within a community.

Methods: A chart review was conducted for individuals with 4 or more infectious syphilis diagnoses between 2005 and 2014 (the top 1% of all syphilis diagnoses in British Columbia, Canada). We characterized the sociodemographics, partner notification outcomes and social network.

Results: Between 2005 and 2014, there were 30 individuals with 4 or more syphilis diagnoses, accounting for 139 diagnoses. All were men who have sex with men and 29 (96%) were human immunodeficiency virus–positive. Of the 139 diagnoses, 65% occurred in the early latent stage of infection, 22% in the secondary stage, and 14% in the primary stage. The median number of sexual partners per diagnosis was 5 (range, 1–50). Among the 838 partners reported, 79% were notifiable, 53% were notified, and 23% were reported to be tested or treated. Sexual network mapping showed that almost half of the members of this group could be linked to one another either directly or indirectly via partners over 10 years. Social network mapping demonstrated high connectivity, with 4 venues associated with almost two thirds of the study population.

Conclusions: The connectivity and recurrent diagnoses in this study population suggest potential benefits of targeted interventions to individuals with multiple diagnoses and their partners. Our study highlights the need for enhanced care, increased syphilis testing frequency, and exploring alternative preventative methods among individuals with syphilis rediagnoses to reduce syphilis incidence.

Keywords

syphilis, repeat diagnoses, gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men, sexual network, partner notification outcomes

Link to Publisher Version (URL)

https://doi.org/10.1097/OLQ.0000000000000995

Available for download on Friday, July 31, 2020

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