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1.  The role of speculum and bimanual examinations when evaluating attendees at a sexually transmitted diseases clinic 
Sexually Transmitted Infections  2006;83(3):206-210.
With the advent of molecular techniques, self‐collected specimens without a clinician's examination are often adequate to detect common genital infections.
To evaluate the additional information that speculum and bimanual examinations provides clinicians in the routine evaluation of genital infections among attendees of a sexually transmitted disease (STD) clinic.
Cross‐sectional study from a database of all visit records to two STD clinics in Baltimore between 1996 and 2002. Women were stratified on the basis of reason for visit. Proportional and likelihood ratio estimates of the speculum examination in detecting clinically relevant cervicovaginal lesions (leading to a diagnosis of other infections or outside referral for further management) and bimanual examination in detecting abnormalities (leading to a diagnosis of pelvic inflammatory disease or referral) are presented.
15 918 of 21 703 records were included: 12 073 were symptomatic (SYM; discharge, rash, abdominal pain, dysuria, genital irritation or odour), 1676 were asymptomatic contacts of an infected partner (CON) and 2169 were asymptomatic and presented for checkup (ASYM). The median age was 26 years; 94% were black. 11.8% of SYM, 4.6% of CON and 3.9% of ASYM patients had clinically meaningful lesions detected on speculum examination. The bimanual examination detected clinically relevant abnormalities in 6.5% of SYM, 0.8% of CON and 0.6% of ASYM patients.
Symptomatic women are most likely to benefit from speculum and bimanual examinations. However, their yield in evaluating asymptomatic women is low. Prospective studies are needed to determine whether eliminating speculum and bimanual examinations in a subset of women would offer an operational advantage without compromising patient safety.
PMCID: PMC2659094  PMID: 17108005
2.  Sexually Transmitted Infection Prevalence and Behavioral Risk Factors among Latino and Non-Latino Patients Attending the Baltimore City STD Clinics 
Sexually transmitted diseases  2010;37(3):191-196.
Many studies have evaluated factors influencing STD/HIV disparities between African-American and white populations, but fewer have explicitly included Latinos for comparison.
We analyzed demographic and behavioral data captured in electronic medical records of patients first seen by a clinician in one of two Baltimore City public STD clinics between 2004 and 2007. Records from white, African-American, and Latino patients were included in the analysis.
There were significant differences between Latinos and other racial/ethnic groups for several behavioral risk factors studied, with Latino patients reporting fewer behavioral risk factors than other patients. Latinos were more likely to have syphilis, but less likely to have gonorrhea than other racial/ethnic groups. English-proficient Latina (female) patients reported higher rates of infection and behavioral risk factors than Spanish-speaking Latina patients. After adjustment for gender and behavioral risk factors, Spanish-speaking Latinas also had significantly less risk of sexually transmitted infections than did English-speaking Latinas.
These results are consistent with other studies showing that acculturation (as measured by language proficiency) is associated with increases in reported sexual risk behaviors among Latinos. Future studies on sexual risk behavior among specific Latino populations characterized by country of origin, level of acculturation, and years in the U.S. may identify further risk factors and protective factors to guide development of culturally appropriate STD/HIV interventions.
PMCID: PMC2828531  PMID: 19910863
Hispanic/Latino; sexually transmitted disease clinic; racial/ethnic disparities; acculturation; gonorrhea; chlamydia; syphilis; HIV
3.  Digital Divide: Variation in Internet and Cellular Phone Use among Women Attending an Urban Sexually Transmitted Infections Clinic 
We sought to describe: (1) the prevalence of internet, cellular phone, and text message use among women attending an urban sexually transmitted infections (STI) clinic, (2) the acceptability of health advice by each mode of information and communication technology (ICT), and (3) demographic characteristics associated with ICT use. This study is a cross-sectional survey of 200 English-speaking women presenting to a Baltimore City STI clinic with STI complaints. Participants completed a self-administered survey querying ICT use and demographic characteristics. Three separate questions asked about interest in receiving health advice delivered by the three modalities: internet, cellular phone, and text message. We performed logistic regression to examine how demographic factors (age, race, and education) are associated with likelihood of using each modality. The median age of respondents was 27 years; 87% were African American, and 71% had a high school diploma. The rate of any internet use was 80%; 31% reported daily use; 16% reported weekly use; and 32% reported less frequent use. Almost all respondents (93%) reported cellular phone use, and 79% used text messaging. Acceptability of health advice by each of the three modalities was about 60%. In multivariate analysis, higher education and younger age were associated with internet use, text messaging, and cellular phone use. Overall rate of internet use was high, but there was an educational disparity in internet use. Cellular phone use was almost universal in this sample. All three modalities were equally acceptable forms of health communication. Describing baseline ICT access and the acceptability of health advice via ICT, as we have done, is one step toward determining the feasibility of ICT-delivered health interventions in urban populations.
PMCID: PMC2821605  PMID: 19941085
Women’s Health; Internet use; Cellular phone; SMS; Text message; Sexually transmitted infections
4.  The Relationship between Recent Alcohol Use and Sexual Behaviors 
Binge drinking is associated with risky sexual behaviors and STDs. Few studies have investigated this by gender or in an STD clinic. This cross-sectional study examined the association between binge drinking and risky sexual behaviors/STDs among patients attending an urban STD clinic.
671 STD clinic patients were tested for STDs, and queried about recent alcohol/drug use and risky sexual behaviors using audio computer-assisted-self-interview. The association between binge drinking and sexual behaviors/STDs was analyzed using logistic regression adjusting for age, employment, and drug use.
Binge drinking was reported by 30% of women and 42% of men. Gender differences were found in rates of receptive anal sex which increased linearly with increased alcohol use among women but did not differ among men. Within gender analyses showed that women binge drinkers engaged in anal sex at more than twice the rate of women who drank alcohol without binges(33.3% vs. 15.9%;p<.05) and three times the rate of women who abstained from alcohol(11.1%;p<.05). Having multiple sex partners was more than twice as common among women binge drinkers than women abstainers(40.5% vs. 16.8%;p<.05). Gonorrhea was nearly 5 times higher among women binge drinkers compared to women abstainers(10.6% vs.2.2%;p<.05). The association between binge drinking and sexual behaviors/gonorrhea remained after controlling for drug use. Among men, rates of risky sexual behaviors/STDs were high, but did not differ by alcohol use.
Rates of binge drinking among STD clinic patients were high. Among women, binge drinking was uniquely associated with risky sexual behaviors and an STD diagnosis. Our findings support the need to routinely screen for binge drinking as part of clinical care in STD clinics. Women binge drinkers, in particular, may benefit from interventions that jointly address binge drinking and risky sexual behaviors. Developing gender-specific interventions could improve overall health outcomes in this population.
PMCID: PMC2588489  PMID: 18782336
hazardous alcohol use; binge drinking; risky sexual behavior; STDs; gender differences
5.  Lumbar Puncture in HIV-Infected Patients with Syphilis and No Neurologic Symptoms 
The decision to perform lumbar puncture in patients with asymptomatic human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection and syphilis is controversial. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend certain criteria that warrant lumbar puncture. Here, we assess the performance of these criteria for detecting asymptomatic neurosyphilis (ANS).
Eligible subjects consisted of all patients with concurrent HIV infection and syphilis in a prospective clinical cohort who had no neurologic symptoms at the time of lumbar puncture. We retrospectively applied different stratification criteria to calculate the performance of lumbar puncture in detecting ANS: (1) lumbar puncture in patients with late latent syphilis or syphilis of an unknown duration, regardless of the CD4 cell count or rapid plasma reagin titer; (2) lumbar puncture if the CD4 cell count was ≤350 cells/mL and/or the rapid plasma reagin titer was ≥1:32, regardless of the syphilis stage; and (3) lumbar puncture in the context of serologic nonresponse to syphilis therapy.
Two hundred two of 231 patients with syphilis did not have neurologic symptoms. Immediate lumbar puncture was performed for 46 patients, and 10 cases (22%) of ANS were detected. With use of the first criterion, 2 (14%) of 10 cases of ANS in patients with early-stage syphilis would have been missed (sensitivity, 80% [95% confidence interval {CI}, 44%–97%]; specificity, 76% [95% CI, 60%–89%]). Criterion 2 would not have missed any cases of ANS (sensitivity, 100% [95% CI, 70%–100%]; specificity, 87% [95% CI, 72%–96%]) but would have required that a lumbar puncture be performed for 88% of patients. Performance of lumbar puncture performed in 13 cases based on serologic nonresponse to syphilis therapy yielded 4 cases (31%) of ANS.
In patients with concurrent HIV infection and syphilis, the use of criteria based on rapid plasma reagin titer and CD4 cell count, instead of stage-based criteria, improved the ability to identify ANS.
PMCID: PMC2716000  PMID: 19187028
6.  Increases in Oral and Anal Sexual Exposure among Youth Attending STD Clinics in Baltimore, Maryland. 
We examined reports of receptive oral or anal sex among clinic patients age 12−25 over time. Odds of reporting oral sex were approximately three times higher in 2004 than in 1994; odds of anal sex were twice as high. Providers should be aware of increased risk behavior among young people.
PMCID: PMC2350224  PMID: 18295140
8.  Antiretroviral Therapy Is Associated with Reduced Serologic Failure Rates for Syphilis among HIV-Infected Patients 
Syphilis and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) frequently coexist in patients, but the effects of immunosuppression on the course of syphilis are unknown. Our goal was to determine whether the degree of HIV-mediated immunosuppression and the use of highly active antiretroviral therapy impact syphilis serologic responses.
We assessed all cases of syphilis with positive serologic test results from 1990 through 2006 in a prospective, observational clinical cohort of HIV-infected patients. We defined seroreversion as the loss of reactivity in a patient who previously had a serologic test result positive for syphilis. We defined serologic failure as the lack of a 4-fold decrease in rapid plasma reagin titers 270–365 days after therapy or a 4-fold increase in titers ⩾30 days after therapy. We used Cox proportional hazards models with statistical adjustments for multiple failure instances.
One hundred eighty subjects experienced 231 cases of syphilis. The median follow-up time was 5.3 years. A total of 71 episodes of serologic failure were documented. A CD4 cell count of <200 cells/mL at the time of syphilis diagnosis was associated with an increased risk of serologic failure (adjusted hazard ratio, 2.48; 95% confidence interval, 1.26–4.88). The receipt of highly active antiretroviral therapy was associated with a 60% reduction in the rate of serologic failure (adjusted hazard ratio, 0.40; 95% confidence interval, 0.21–0.75), independent of concomitant CD4 cell response. Rapid plasma reagin seroreversion was infrequent (16.1%) and inconsistent, and it was more likely to occur among patients who received macrolides.
The use of highly active antiretroviral therapy to reverse immunosuppression and the routine use of macrolides for the prevention of opportunistic infections may reduce syphilis serologic failure rates among HIV-infected patients who have syphilis.
PMCID: PMC2562285  PMID: 18532887
9.  Neurosyphilis in a clinical cohort of HIV-1-infected patients 
AIDS (London, England)  2008;22(10):1145-1151.
To describe the risk factors, clinical presentation, and long-term follow up of patients enrolled in a clinical cohort of HIV-infected patients who were diagnosed and treated for neurosyphilis.
Comprehensive demographic, clinical, and therapeutic data were collected prospectively on all patients between 1990 and 2006. Patients were diagnosed with neurosyphilis if they had positive syphilis serologies and any of the following: (a) one or more cerebrospinal fluid abnormalities on lumbar puncture [white blood cells >10/μl; protein >50 mg/dl; reactive venereal diseases research laboratory], (b) an otherwise unexplained neurological finding.
Of 231 newly diagnosed syphilis cases, 41 neurosyphilis cases met entry criteria (median age 38.6 years, 79.1% male). Risk factors for neurosyphilis included a CD4 cell count of less than 350 cells/ml at the time of syphilis diagnosis (odds ratio: 2.87; 95% confidence interval: 1.18–7.02), a rapid plasma regain titer >1:128 (2.83; 1.11–7.26), and male sex (2.46; 1.06–5.70). Use of any highly active antiretroviral therapy before syphilis infection reduced the odds of neurosyphilis by 65% (0.35; 0.14–0.91). Sixty-three percent of cases presented with early neurosyphilis and the median time to neurosyphilis diagnosis was 9 months. Symptomatic patients had more cerebrospinal fluid abnormalities on initial lumbar puncture than asymptomatic patients (P =0.01). Follow-up lumbar puncture within 12 months revealed that only 38% had resolution of all cerebrospinal fluid abnormalities. At 1 year, 38% had persistence of their major symptom despite adequate treatment for neurosyphilis. Twelve of 41 (29%) patients were retreated for syphilis.
Early neurosyphilis was common in this cohort. Highly active antiretroviral therapy to reverse immunosuppression may help mitigate neurological complications of syphilis.
PMCID: PMC2553365  PMID: 18525260
highly active antiretroviral therapy; HIV; immunosuppression; neurosyphilis; syphilis

Results 1-9 (9)