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Launching a new era for behavioural surveillance
  1. Lisa E Manhart1,2,3,
  2. Christine M Khosropour1,2
  1. 1Department of Epidemiology, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA
  2. 2The Center for AIDS and STD, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA
  3. 3Department Global Health, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Lisa E Manhart, Department of Epidemiology, University of Washington, 325 9th Avenue, Box 359931, Seattle, Washington 98104, USA; lmanhart{at}

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Despite systems to monitor the incidence of disease dating from the mid-1800s,1 behavioural surveillance is in relative infancy. The first systematic data on human sexual behaviour, the Kinsey Reports, were published in the late 1940s/early 1950s, but it was not until 40 years later that national systematic efforts to collect data on sexual behaviours were undertaken. Great Britain's National Surveys of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (NATSAL) and the National Health and Social Life Survey in the USA were both launched in the early 1990s in response to the emerging HIV/AIDS epidemic, and both were accompanied by significant debate about public funding of research on the still taboo subject of sexual behaviour. Today, taboos have loosened and systematic collection of data on sexual behaviour is routine in many settings. Nevertheless, there are few instances of data that can be compared across time and geographical location. In response to this, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) launched an effort to harmonise behavioural surveillance by recommending uniform collection of core indicators across populations. In this issue, Jørgensen et al describe results of Denmark's baseline behavioural surveillance survey using the ECDC core indicators in a general population sample of young adults (see Jørgensen et al). Approximately 30% did not use condoms at sexual debut, placing them at risk of sexually transmitted infections (STI). Even more were unprotected at their last sexual encounter, and this was amplified in casual partnerships. While the results themselves are not surprising, the establishment of baseline data for the ECDC core indicators in Denmark …

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  • Funding LEM is funded by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH/NIAID R01 AI110666 and U19 AI113173). CMK is also supported by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH/NIAID T32 AI07140). LEM has served on a scientific advisory board for QIAGEN and has received reagents and test kits for diagnostic assays from Hologic/Gen-Probe.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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