Journal of Urban Health

, Volume 78, Issue 3, pp 433–445 | Cite as

Sexual networks and sexually transmitted infections: A tale of two cities

  • A. M. JollyEmail author
  • S. Q. Muth
  • J. L. Wylie
  • J. J. Potterat
Special Feature: Social Networks


Research on risk behaviors for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) has revealed that they seldom correspond with actual risk of infection. Core groups of people with high-risk behavior who form networks of people linked by sexual contact are essential for STI transmission, but have been overlooked in epidemiological studies. Social network analysis, a subdiscipline of sociology, provides both the methods and analytical techniques to describe and illustrate the effects of sexual networks on STI transmission. Sexual networks of people from Colorado Springs, Colorado, and from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, infected with chlamydia during a 6-month period were compared. In Winnipeg, 442 networks were identified, comprising 571 cases and 663 contacts, ranging in size from 2 to 20 individuals; Colorado Springs data yielded 401 networks, comprising 468 cases and 700 contacts, ranging in size from 2 to 12 individuals. Taking differing partner notification methods and the slightly smaller population size in Colorado Springs into account, the networks from both places were similar in both size and structure. These smaller, sparsely linked networks, peripheral to the core, may form the mechanism by which chlamydia can remain endemic, in contrast with larger, more densely connected networks, closer to the core, which are associated with steep rises in incidence.


Canada Chlamydia Colorado Gonorrhea Models/statistical Review Sexual partners Sexually transmitted diseases/epidemiology United States 


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Copyright information

© The New York Academy of Medicine 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. M. Jolly
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • S. Q. Muth
    • 3
  • J. L. Wylie
    • 4
    • 5
  • J. J. Potterat
    • 3
  1. 1.Division of STD Prevention and Control, Laboratory Centres for Disease Control, Health CanadaUniversity of OttawaOttawa
  2. 2.Department of Community MedicineUniversity of OttawaOttawa
  3. 3.the STD/HIV ProgramEl Paso County Department of Health and EnvironmentColorado Springs
  4. 4.Department of Medical MicrobiologyUniversity of ManitobaWinnipeg
  5. 5.Cadham Provincia 1 LaboratoryManitoba HealthWinnipeg

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