Objective: To assess the association between sexual encounters with Internet partners and current Chlamydia trachomatis (Ct) and Neisseria gonorrhoeae (GC) infections.
Methods: Between August 2006 and March 2008, patients at the Denver Metro Health Clinic were routinely asked about sexual encounters with Internet partners. This retrospective case-control study was limited to patients who tested for Ct/GC at their visit. Analyses were stratified by sexual orientation to account for differences in baseline risk behaviors.
Results: Of 14,955 patients with a valid Ct/GC test result, 2,802 (19%) patients were Ct/GC infected. Stratified by sexual orientation, the prevalence of Ct/GC infection was 17% for men who have sex with men (MSM), 21% for men who have sex with women (MSW), and 16% for women. A total of 339 (23%) MSM, 192 (3%) MSW, and 98 (2%) women reported having a sexual encounter with a person they met on the Internet in the past 4 months. The estimates of the association between recent Internet sex partner and current Ct/GC infection were not significant for MSM (Risk Ratio (RR): 1.12, 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.84, 1.49) and women (RR: 0.81, 95% CI: 0.45, 1.48). However, the association appeared to be significantly protective among MSW (RR: 0.66, 95% CI: 0.44, 0.98).
Conclusions: Sexual encounters with Internet partners did not appear to be associated with increased risk of current Ct/GC infection among persons seeking care at an STD clinic. Seeking sexual partners on the Internet is a complex behavior and its implications for STI/HIV infection are not fully understood.
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