Dynamics and control of infections on social networks of population types

Williams, Brian G. ; Dye, Christopher (2018)

CITATION: Williams, B. G. & Dye, C. 2018. Dynamics and control of infections on social networks of population types. Epidemics, 23:11–18, doi:10.1016/j.epidem.2017.10.002.

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Article

Random mixing in host populations has been a convenient simplifying assumption in the study of epidemics, but neglects important differences in contact rates within and between population groups. For HIV/AIDS, the assumption of random mixing is inappropriate for epidemics that are concentrated in groups of people at high risk, including female sex workers (FSW) and their male clients (MCF), injecting drug users (IDU) and men who have sex with men (MSM). To find out who transmits infection to whom and how that affects the spread and containment of infection remains a major empirical challenge in the epidemiology of HIV/AIDS. Here we develop a technique, based on the routine sampling of infection in linked population groups (a social network of population types), which shows how an HIV/AIDS epidemic in Can Tho Province of Vietnam began in FSW, was propagated mainly by IDU, and ultimately generated most cases among the female partners of MCF (FPM). Calculation of the case reproduction numbers within and between groups, and for the whole network, provides insights into control that cannot be deduced simply from observations on the prevalence of infection. Specifically, the per capita rate of HIV transmission was highest from FSW to MCF, and most HIV infections occurred in FPM, but the number of infections in the whole network is best reduced by interrupting transmission to and from IDU. This analysis can be used to guide HIV/AIDS interventions using needle and syringe exchange, condom distribution and antiretroviral therapy. The method requires only routine data and could be applied to infections in other populations.

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