Background: Volatility in sexual contact rates has been recognized as an important factor influencing HIV transmission dynamics. One-time partnerships may be particularly important given the potential to quickly accumulate large number of contacts. Yet, empirical data documenting individual variation in contact rates remain rare. This study provides much needed data on temporal variation in one-time partners to better understand behavioral dynamics and improve the accuracy of transmission models.
Methods: Data for this study were obtained from a longitudinal cohort study of young men who have sex with men and transgender women in Chicago. Participants provided sexual network data every 6 months for 2 years. A series of random effects models examined variation in one-time partnership rates and disaggregated within and between associations of exposure variables. Exposure variables included prior number of one-time partners, number of casual partners, and having a main partner.
Results: Results indicated substantial between-person and within-person variation in one-time partners. Casual partnerships were positively associated and main partnerships negatively associated with one-time partnership rates. There remained a small positive association between prior one-time partnerships and the current number of one-time partnerships.
Conclusions: Despite the preponderance of a low number of one-time partners, substantial variation in one-time partnership rates exists among young men who have sex with men and transgender women. Accordingly, focusing on high contact rate individuals alone may be insufficient to identify periods of highest risk. Future studies should use these estimates to more accurately model how volatility impacts HIV transmission and better understand how this variation influences intervention effectiveness.
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