Gap length: an important factor in sexually transmitted disease transmission

Sex Transm Dis. 2003 Mar;30(3):221-5. doi: 10.1097/00007435-200303000-00009.


Background: Sexually transmitted disease (STD) transmission may occur if the time between dissolution and formation of sex partnerships, the gap, is shorter than mean duration of infectivity of STDs.

Goal: The goal was to examine gaps reported by a nationally representative sample of reproductive-age women.

Study design: Data on women's sex partnership dynamics were collected from the 1995 National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG). Gap was defined as the time between first sex with current/most recent partner and last sex with previous partner.

Results: One third of women reported negative gaps (concurrent partnerships). Among the women who reported positive gaps (serial monogamy), more than half switched partners in time periods shorter than the mean infectivity periods of some bacterial STDs. Adolescents and women with past STD diagnoses reported shorter gaps than any other group.

Conclusion: Given that many STDs are often asymptomatic, short gaps may present a problem if women and their partners are not routinely screened for STDs.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Male
  • Sexual Behavior*
  • Sexual Partners*
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases / etiology*
  • Time Factors
  • United States / epidemiology