Objective: To characterise patients who decline to provide their surname at a public sexual health centre.
Methods: A case–control study of all patients first attending the Sydney Sexual Health Centre from 1998 to 2004, using proforma-collected electronic data to compare patients who did not provide their surname with those who did. In addition, the frequencies of the 10 most common surnames in the Sydney telephone directory were compared with the frequency of those names in the patient database.
Results: Of 27 241 patients, 1350 (5%) declined to provide their surname. The most common surnames were also over-represented, suggesting that aliases remained pervasive among the centre’s patients. Sex workers, married people and people requesting HIV, hepatitis or sexually transmissible infection (STI) screening were all more likely to decline to provide a surname. By contrast, patients with symptoms, patients who were referred with a prior STI diagnosis and patients with a new bacterial or non-HIV viral STI or were a known contact with STI were all significantly more likely to provide a surname. Among patients who declined to provide a surname, 20 tested HIV positive.
Conclusion: The anonymous option did not seem to eliminate the use of aliases. Although limited, there seems to be a market for anonymous sexual health screening, particularly for the asymptomatic.
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Published Online First 15 November 2006
HCS developed the protocol, assembled the data and wrote the first draft of the manuscript. AMM helped with protocol development and input into the manuscript. HW and KT performed the statistical analysis and had input into the manuscript. BD provided the original idea for the study, designed the patient database, helped with protocol development, oversaw the analysis and had input into the manuscript.
Competing interests: None.
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