AIDS and Behavior

, Volume 23, Issue 8, pp 2190–2198 | Cite as

An Innovative Approach to Assess Similarity Between Sex Partners

  • Qian AnEmail author
  • Ruiguang Song
  • Teresa J. Finlayson
  • Catlainn Sionean
  • Cyprian Wejnert
  • the NHBS Study Group
Original Paper


We present a simple, comprehensive method for assessing similarity between sex partners of a participant and demonstrate its application using data collected in 2015 as part of CDC’s National HIV behavioral surveillance (NHBS) among persons who inject drugs (PWID). We found that the pairwise similarity between sex partners of a survey participant was high. The similarity between second-to-last and third-to-last partners in the past 3 months was significantly higher than that between last and second-to-last partner in partner type, frequency of sex acts, and the contextual characteristics of sex behavior at last sexual encounter. The proposed approach provides an innovative measure of the added value of multi-partner series. The empirical analysis suggests that querying additional sex partners contributes limited data to characterize a participant’s sexual behaviors among NHBS PWID. Future studies should apply the proposed method to evaluate the added value of data on multiple sex partners among other populations.


Pairwise similarity Sex partners HIV Behavioral surveillance Persons who inject drugs 



The findings and conclusions in this paper are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


This study was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The research we describe was conducted as part of our routine duties as employees of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and received no additional financial support.

Compliance of Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

None of the authors has a conflict of interest as regards this publication or the research on which it was based.

Ethical Approval

The study is in compliance with ethical standards of institutional review boards (IRBs) in each participating city.

Supplementary material

10461_2018_2285_MOESM1_ESM.docx (19 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 19 kb)


  1. 1.
    NIMH Collaborative HIV/STD Prevention Trial Group. Methodological overview of a five-country community-level HIV/sexually transmitted disease prevention trial. AIDS. 2007;21(Suppl 2):S3–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. HIV infection, risk, prevention, and testing behaviors among persons who inject drugs—national HIV behavioral surveillance: injection drug use, 20 U.S. Cities, 2012. HIV Surveillance Special Report 18. Published September 2017. Accessed 7 March 2018.
  3. 3.
    Jenness SM, Weiss KM, Goodreau SM, Gift T, Chesson H, Hoover KW, Smith DK, Liu AY, Sullivan PS, Rosenberg ES. Incidence of gonorrhea and chlamydia following HIV preexposure prophylaxis among men who have sex with men: a modeling study. Clin Infect Dis. 2017. Scholar
  4. 4.
    Schroder KE, Carey MP, Vanable PA. Methodological challenges in research on sexual risk behavior: I. Item content, scaling, and data analytical options. Ann Behav Med. 2003;26(2):76–103.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Pequegnat W, Hartwell TD, Green AM, Strader LC. National Institute of Mental Health Collaborative HIV/STD Prevention Trial Group. How many sexual partners of an individual need to be evaluated to capture HIV/STI risk behavior in a study? AIDS Behav. 2016;20(6):1353–9.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Laumann EO, Youm Y. Racial/ethnic group differences in the prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases in the United States: a network explanation. Sex Transm Dis. 1999;26(5):250–61.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    McAuliffe TL, DiFranceisco W, Reed BR. Effects of question format and collection mode on the accuracy of retrospective surveys of health risk behavior: a comparison with daily sexual activity diaries. Health Psychol. 2007;26(1):60.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    McAuliffe TL, DiFranceisco W, Reed BR. Low numeracy predicts reduced accuracy of retrospective reports of frequency of sexual behavior. AIDS Behav. 2010;14(6):1320–9.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Pinkerton SD, Galletly CL, McAuliffe TL, DiFranceisco W, Raymond HF, Chesson HW. Aggregate versus individual-level sexual behavior assessment: how much detail is needed to accurately estimate HIV/STI risk? Eval Rev. 2010;34(1):19–34.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Paz-Bailey G, Raymond HF, Lansky A, Mermin J. Using the National HIV behavioral surveillance system to inform HIV prevention efforts in the United States. AIDS Behav. 2014;18(3):233–6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Lansky A, Abdul-Quader AS, Cribbin M, Hall T, Finlayson TJ, Garfein RS, Lin LS, Sullivan PS. Developing an HIV behavioral surveillance system for injecting drug users: the National HIV behavioral surveillance system. Public Health Rep. 2007;122(1_suppl):48–55.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Watson PF, Petrie A. Method agreement analysis: a review of correct methodology. Theriogenology. 2010;73(9):1167–79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© This is a U.S. Government work and not under copyright protection in the US; foreign copyright protection may apply 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Qian An
    • 1
    Email author
  • Ruiguang Song
    • 1
  • Teresa J. Finlayson
    • 1
  • Catlainn Sionean
    • 1
  • Cyprian Wejnert
    • 1
  • the NHBS Study Group
  1. 1.Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention, National Center for HIV, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB PreventionCenters for Disease Control and PreventionAtlantaUSA

Personalised recommendations