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Open Access Open Badges Research article

The spatial context of clinic-reported sexually transmitted infection in Hong Kong

Shui-Shan Lee1*, King-Man Ho2 and Georgiana MT Cheung2

Author Affiliations

1 Stanley Ho Centre for Emerging Infectious Diseases, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

2 Social Hygiene Service, Centre for Health Protection, Department of Health, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government, Hong Kong

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BMC Infectious Diseases 2010, 10:275  doi:10.1186/1471-2334-10-275

Published: 21 September 2010



The incidence and prevalence of sexually transmitted infection (STI) in China has been on the rise in the past decade. Delineation of epidemiologic pattern is often hampered by its uneven distribution. Spatial distribution is often a neglected aspect of STI research, the description of which may enhance epidemiologic surveillance and inform service development.


Over a one month-period, all first time attendees of 6 public STI clinics in Hong Kong were interviewed before clinical consultation using a standard questionnaire to assess their demographic, clinical and behavioural characteristics. A GIS (geographic information system)-based approach was adopted with mapping performed. The cases attending the clinics in different locations were profiled. A comparison was made between neighbourhood cases (patients living near a clinic) and distant cases (those farther off), by calculating the odds ratio for demographic, behavioural and geographic characteristics.


Of the 1142 STI patients evaluated, the residence locations of 1029 (90.1%) could be geocoded, of which 95.6% were ethnic Chinese and 63.4% male. Geographically only about a quarter lived in the same district as the clinic. STI patients aged 55 or above were more likely to be living in the vicinity of the clinic, located in the same or adjacent tertiary planning unit (a small geographic unit below district level). A majority of patients came from locations a few kilometers from the clinic, the distance of which varies between clinics. Overall, more syphilis cases were reported in patients residing in the same or adjacent tertiary planning unit, while distant cases tended to give a higher risk of inconsistent condom use. There were otherwise no significant clinical and epidemiologic differences between neighbourhood and distant STI cases.


There was no specific relationship between STI and the residence location of patients as regards their clinical and epidemiologic characteristics in the territory of Hong Kong. Older STI patients were however more inclined to attend the nearby STI clinics. Most patients have travelled a variable distance to access the STI service. The relationship between STI clinic cases and distance could be a complex issue intertwined between psychosocial characteristics and STI service coverage.