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Heterogeneity in Number and Type of Sexual Contacts in a Gay Urban Cohort.

Abstract

HIV transmission models include heterogeneous individuals with different sexual behaviors including contact rates, mixing patterns, and sexual practices. However, heterogeneity can also exist within individuals over time. In this paper we analyze a two year prospective cohort of 882 gay men with observations at six month intervals focusing on heterogeneity both within and between individuals in sexual contact rates and sexual roles. The total number of sexual contacts made over the course of the study (mean 1.55 per month) are highly variable between individuals (standard deviation 9.82 per month) as expected. At the individual level, contacts were also heterogeneous over time. For a homogeneous count process the variance should scale with the mean; however, at the individual level the variance scaled with the square root of the mean implying the presence of heterogeneity within individuals over time. We also observed a high level of movement between dichotomous sexual roles (insertive/receptive, protected/unprotected, anal/oral, and HIV status of partners). On average periods of exclusively unprotected sexual contacted lasted 16 months. Our results suggest that future HIV models should consider heterogeneities both between and within individuals in sexual contact rates and sexual roles.

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