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PLoS One. 2016 Jul 27;11(7):e0157749. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0157749. eCollection 2016.

Optimizing Partner Notification Programs for Men Who Have Sex with Men: Factorial Survey Results from South China.

Author information

Division of Rheumatology, Immunology and Allergy, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, United States of America.
Shanghai Skin Disease Hospital, Shanghai, China.
Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, United States of America.
Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina, United States of America.
National Center for Sexually Transmitted Disease Control, Chinese Academy of Medical Science and Peking Union Medical College Institute of Dermatology, Nanjing, China.



Syphilis is prevalent among men who have sex with men (MSM) in China. Syphilis partner notification (PN) programs targeting MSM has been considered as one of effective strategies to prevention and control of the infection in the population. We examined willingness and preferences for PN among MSM to measure feasibility and optimize uptake.


Participation in a syphilis PN program was measured using a factorial survey from both the perspective of the index patient and the partner. Respondents were recruited from April-July 2011 using convenience sampling at two sites-a MSM sexually transmitted disease (STD) clinic and a MSM community based organization (CBO). Respondents first evaluated three factorial survey vignettes to measure probability of participation and then an anonymous sociodemographic questionnaire. A two-level mixed linear model was fitted for the factorial survey analysis.


In 372 respondents with mean age (± SD) 28.5 (± 6.0) years, most were single (82.0%) and closeted gays (66.7%). The Internet was the most frequent place to search for sex. Few (31.2%) had legal names for casual partners, but most had instant messenger (86.5%) and mobile phone numbers (77.7%). The mean probability of participation in a syphilis PN program was 64.5% (± 32.4%) for index patients and 63.7% (± 32.6%) for partners. Referral of the partner to a private clinic or MSM CBO for follow-up decreased participation compared to the local Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or public STD clinic.


Enhanced PN services may be feasible among MSM in South China. Internet and mobile phone PN may contact partners untraceable by traditional PN. Referral of partners to the local CDC or public STD clinic may maximize PN participation.

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