Objectives To assess to what extent triage criteria, client and regional characteristics explain regional differences in Chlamydia trachomatis (Ct) and Neisseria gonorrhoeae (Ng) positivity in sexually transmitted infection (STI) clinics.
Design Retrospective cross-sectional study on the Dutch STI surveillance database of all 24 STI clinics.
Participants STI clinic visits of heterosexual persons in 2015 with a Ct (n= 101 495) and/or Ng test (n= 101 081).
Primary outcome measure Ct and Ng positivity and 95% CI was assessed for each STI clinic. Two-level logistic regression analyses were performed to calculate the percentage change in regional variance (PCV) after adding triage criteria (model 1), other client characteristics (model 2) and regional characteristics (model 3) to the empty model. The contribution of single characteristics was determined after removing them from model 3.
Results Ct positivity was 14.9% and ranged from 12.6% to 20.0% regionally. Ng positivity was 1.7% and ranged from 0.8% to 3.8% regionally. For Ct, the PCV was 11.7% in model 1, 32.2% in model 2% and 59.3% in model 3. Age, notified for Ct (triage), level of education (other characteristics) and regional degree of urbanisation (region) explained variance most. For Ng, the PCV was 38.7% in model 1, 61.2% in model 2% and 69.1% in model 3. Ethnicity (triage), partner in risk group, level of education and neighbourhood (other characteristics) and regional socioeconomic status (SES) explained variance most. A significant part of regional variance remained unexplained.
Conclusions Regional variance was explained by differences in client characteristics, indicating that triage and self-selection influence positivity rates in the surveillance data. Clustering of Ng in low SES regions additionally explained regional variance in Ng; targeted interventions in low SES regions may assist Ng control. Including educational level as triage criterion is recommended. Studies incorporating prevalence data are needed to assess whether regional clustering underlies unexplained regional variance.