Among men reporting venues for meeting sex partners, the Internet was reported by 18% in 2001, 22% in 2002, and 26% in 2003.
From January 2001 to October 2003, the percentage of MSM with syphilis who reported use of the Internet to meet sex partners increased by 8%, representing a relative increase of 9% (Fig. Overall, 23% (n = 198) of 850 MSM who were diagnosed with early syphilis infection reported meeting a sex partner through the Internet (Table 1).
Public health investigators (PHI) conduct field interviews of early syphilis cases (primary, secondary, and early latent) to collect additional demographic information, risk behavior information, and information on contacts and partners.
PHI provide counseling and referral to infected patients and proceed with partner counseling and referral services to decrease onward transmission of syphilis.
Correspondence: Melanie Taylor, MD, MPH, Los Angeles County STD Program, 2615 South Grand Ave, Room 500, Los Angeles, CA 90007.
E-mail: RISING SYPHILIS RATES IN many urban cities in the United States, Canada, and Western Europe have been focused in men who have sex with men (MSM).
For early latent syphilis, it is the period from the date of treatment back to 1 year.
A retrospective review of these cases collected during January 2001 through December 2003 was performed to identify correlates of Internet use.
Field interview records obtained on MSM early syphilis cases were reviewed for the years 2001–2003 for demographic, behavioral, and clinical data.
Use of the Internet to meet sex partners is a growing concern among public health officials for the following reasons: 1) the association of some Internet users with sexual risk-taking behavior, 2) the difficulty of contact tracing and partner notification, and 3) the challenges of creating an effective intervention to curb unsafe sexual behavior solicited through the Internet.
We evaluated the use of the Internet to meet sex partners among MSM diagnosed with early syphilis during 2001–2003 to describe trends in Internet use by MSM with syphilis and to describe demographic and behavioral correlates of Internet use in this population.
The age distribution was as follows: 1.4% were less than 20 years of age, 19% were between 20 and 29 years of age, 44% were between 30 to 39 years of age, and 27% were between 40 and 49.