Background: Social network methods have improved our understanding of sexually transmitted disease transmission dynamics, and may be of use in routine field operations for partner notification.
Goal: To augment traditional syphilis-control activities with social network methods in an Atlanta area with high syphilis morbidity.
Study design: Disease investigators conducted interviews, used network diagrams to prioritize their work, and relied on network connections for finding hard-to-reach persons.
Results: A total of 396 contacts were elicited from 48 infected and 50 uninfected persons. The cumulative prevalence of syphilis was 12.6%, and 24 persons infected with HIV were identified. Network methods disclosed a large, interconnected group (276 persons) characterized by high network centrality and the substantial presence of small, interactive subgroups (microstructures).
Conclusion: The network approach is a feasible field technique, and can identify core groups involved in the intense transmission of syphilis. The targeted, network-based approach may be useful in attempts to eliminate syphilis.