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Describing Sexual Partnerships: Issues, Approaches and (a little bit of) Data

I am interested in knowing how key aspects of sexual partnerships influence risk of acquisition and transmission of sexually transmitted diseases (STD). There are a number of approaches to this question, ranging from standard epidemiologic models of risk in which partnership characteristics are included in a regression model as covariates, to complex, nonlinear epidemic models of disease in which sexual partnerships must somehow be parameterized. In this talk I will discuss some of the key characteristics of sexual partnerships (such as duration and intensity), describe some of the difficult issues one faces in trying to estimate these characteristics from real(istic) data and suggest some possible approaches to modeling sexual partnerships that might be useful to those creating epidemic models of STD. This talk represents work in progress. I will provide some results from a real dataset to illustrate points but mostly I hope to stimulate discussion of and get feedback on these ideas.