Sex Transm Infect 88:63-68 doi:10.1136/sextrans-2011-050280
  • Behaviour
  • Original article

Incarceration, high-risk sexual partnerships and sexually transmitted infections in an urban population

  1. Emily Erbelding5
  1. 1Statistics and Epidemiology Division, Research Triangle Institute, Washington, DC, USA
  2. 2Department of Epidemiology, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland, USA
  3. 3City University of New York (Queens College and the Graduate Center), Flushing, New York, USA
  4. 4Schools of Medicine and Public Health, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA
  5. 5National Institute of AIDS and Infectious Diseases, Bethesda, Maryland, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Susan M Rogers, Statistics and Epidemiology Division, Research Triangle Institute, 701 13th Street NW, Washington, DC 20009, USA; smr{at}
  1. Contributors SMR, CFT, WCM and EE contributed to the conception and design of the study. SMR, CFT, WCM and EE contributed to the acquisition of data and SMR, CFT and WCM contributed to the questionnaire design. SMR and ST contributed to data management. SMR, MRK, ST, CFT and WCM contributed to analysis and interpretation of data. All authors contributed to writing of the manuscript.

  • Accepted 19 November 2011


Objectives The authors examined the associations between personal and partner incarceration, high-risk sexual partnerships and biologically confirmed sexually transmitted infection (STI) in a US urban population.

Methods Data from a probability survey of young adults 15–35 years of age in Baltimore, Maryland, USA, were analysed to assess the prevalence of personal and partner incarceration and its association with several measures of high-risk sexual partnerships including multiple partners, partner concurrency and current STI.

Results A history of incarceration was common (24.1% among men and 11.3% among women). Among women with an incarcerated partner in the past year (15.3%), the risk of current STI was significantly increased (adjusted prevalence ratio=2.3, 95% CI 1.5 to 3.5). Multiple partners (5+) in the past year and partner concurrency were disproportionately high among men and women who had been incarcerated or who had sexual partner(s) or who had recently been incarcerated. These associations remained robust independent of personal socio-demographic factors and illicit drug use.

Conclusions Incarceration may contribute to STI risk by influencing engagement in high-risk behaviours and by influencing contact with partners who engage in risky behaviours and who hence have elevated risk of infection.


  • Funding Support for this research was provided by National Institutes of Health grant HD047163 to Research Triangle Institute.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Ethics approval Ethics approval was provided by institutional review boards of Research Triangle Institute, University of North Carolina, University of Massachusetts and Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.