Search tips
Search criteria 


Logo of straninfSexually Transmitted InfectionsVisit this articleSubmit a manuscriptReceive email alertsContact usBMJ
Sex Transm Infect. 2003 June; 79(3): 197–201.
PMCID: PMC1744650

Avoiding risky sex partners: perception of partners' risks v partners' self reported risks


Background: Key strategies advocated for lowering personal risk of sexual exposure to STD/HIV include having fewer partners and avoiding risky partners. However, few studies have systematically examined how well people can actually discern their sex partners' risk behaviours.

Methods: We conducted face to face interviews with 151 heterosexual patients with gonorrhoea or chlamydial infection and 189 of their sex partners. Interviews examined the patients' perceptions of their sex partners' sociodemographic characteristics and risk behaviours. Patients' perceptions of partners were then sociometrically compared for agreement with partner self reports, using the kappa statistic for discrete variables and concordance correlation for continuous variables.

Results: Agreement was highest for perceived partner age, race/ethnicity, and duration of sexual partnership; and lowest for knowledge of partner's work in commercial sex, number of other sex partners, and for perceived quality of communication within the partnership. Index patients commonly underestimated or overestimated partners' risk characteristics. Reported condom use was infrequent and inconsistent within partnerships.

Conclusion: Among people with gonorrhoea or chlamydial infection, patients' perceptions of partners' risk behaviours often disagreed with the partners' self reports. Formative research should guide development and evaluation of interventions to enhance sexual health communication within partnerships and within social networks, as a potential harm reduction strategy to foster healthier partnerships.

Full Text

The Full Text of this article is available as a PDF (162K).

Selected References

These references are in PubMed. This may not be the complete list of references from this article.
  • Amsel Z, Mandell W, Matthias L, Mason C, Hocherman I. Reliability and validity of self-reported illegal activities and drug use collected from narcotic addicts. Int J Addict. 1976;11(2):325–336. [PubMed]
  • Bonito AJ, Nurco DN, Shaffer JW. The veridicality of addicts' self-reports in social research. Int J Addict. 1976;11(5):719–724. [PubMed]
  • Darke S, Hall W, Heather N, Ward J, Wodak A. The reliability and validity of a scale to measure HIV risk-taking behaviour among intravenous drug users. AIDS. 1991 Feb;5(2):181–185. [PubMed]
  • Goldstein MF, Friedman SR, Neaigus A, Jose B, Ildefonso G, Curtis R. Self-reports of HIV risk behavior by injecting drug users: are they reliable? Addiction. 1995 Aug;90(8):1097–1104. [PubMed]
  • Coates RA, Calzavara LM, Soskolne CL, Read SE, Fanning MM, Shepherd FA, Klein MH, Johnson JK. Validity of sexual histories in a prospective study of male sexual contacts of men with AIDS or an AIDS-related condition. Am J Epidemiol. 1988 Oct;128(4):719–728. [PubMed]
  • Lagarde E, Enel C, Pison G. Reliability of reports of sexual behavior: a study of married couples in rural west Africa. Am J Epidemiol. 1995 Jun 15;141(12):1194–1200. [PubMed]
  • Upchurch DM, Weisman CS, Shepherd M, Brookmeyer R, Fox R, Celentano DD, Colletta L, Hook EW., 3rd Interpartner reliability of reporting of recent sexual behaviors. Am J Epidemiol. 1991 Nov 15;134(10):1159–1166. [PubMed]
  • Padian NS. Sexual histories of heterosexual couples with one HIV-infected partner. Am J Public Health. 1990 Aug;80(8):990–991. [PubMed]
  • Padian NS, Aral S, Vranizan K, Bolan G. Reliability of sexual histories in heterosexual couples. Sex Transm Dis. 1995 May-Jun;22(3):169–172. [PubMed]
  • Lin LI. A concordance correlation coefficient to evaluate reproducibility. Biometrics. 1989 Mar;45(1):255–268. [PubMed]
  • Posner KL, Sampson PD, Caplan RA, Ward RJ, Cheney FW. Measuring interrater reliability among multiple raters: an example of methods for nominal data. Stat Med. 1990 Sep;9(9):1103–1115. [PubMed]
  • Schlossberger NM, Turner RA, Irwin CE., Jr Early adolescent knowledge and attitudes about circumcision: methods and implications for research. J Adolesc Health. 1992 Jun;13(4):293–297. [PubMed]
  • De Gruttola V, Mayer KH. Assessing and modeling heterosexual spread of the human immunodeficiency virus in the United States. Rev Infect Dis. 1988 Jan-Feb;10(1):138–150. [PubMed]
  • Gorbach Pamina M, Stoner Bradley P, Aral Sevgi O, H Whittington Willian L, Holmes King K. "It takes a village": understanding concurrent sexual partnerships in Seattle, Washington. Sex Transm Dis. 2002 Aug;29(8):453–462. [PubMed]
  • Des Jarlais DC, Friedman SR, Ward TP. Harm reduction: a public health response to the AIDS epidemic among injecting drug users. Annu Rev Public Health. 1993;14:413–450. [PubMed]
  • Elford J, Bolding G, Maguire M, Sherr L. Do gay men discuss HIV risk reduction with their GP? AIDS Care. 2000 Jun;12(3):287–290. [PubMed]
  • Vanable PA, Ostrow DG, McKirnan DJ, Taywaditep KJ, Hope BA. Impact of combination therapies on HIV risk perceptions and sexual risk among HIV-positive and HIV-negative gay and bisexual men. Health Psychol. 2000 Mar;19(2):134–145. [PubMed]
  • Woody GE, Donnell D, Seage GR, Metzger D, Marmor M, Koblin BA, Buchbinder S, Gross M, Stone B, Judson FN. Non-injection substance use correlates with risky sex among men having sex with men: data from HIVNET. Drug Alcohol Depend. 1999 Feb 1;53(3):197–205. [PubMed]
  • Klitzman RL, Pope HG, Jr, Hudson JI. MDMA ("Ecstasy") abuse and high-risk sexual behaviors among 169 gay and bisexual men. Am J Psychiatry. 2000 Jul;157(7):1162–1164. [PubMed]

Articles from Sexually Transmitted Infections are provided here courtesy of BMJ Publishing Group