Position-Specific HIV Risk in a Large Network of Homeless Youths

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Abstract

Objectives

We examined interconnections among runaway and homeless youths (RHYs) and how aggregated network structure position was associated with HIV risk in this population.

Methods

We collected individual and social network data from 136 RHYs. On the basis of these data, we generated a sociomatrix, accomplished network visualization with a “spring embedder,” and examined k-cores. We used multivariate logistic regression models to assess associations between peripheral and nonperipheral network position and recent unprotected sexual intercourse.

Results

Small numbers of nominations at the individual level aggregated into a large social network with a visible core, periphery, and small clusters. Female youths were more likely to be in the core, as were youths who had been homeless for 2 years or more. Youths at the periphery were less likely to report unprotected intercourse and had been homeless for a shorter duration.

Conclusions

HIV risk was a function of risk-taking youths' connections with one another and was associated with position in the overall network structure. Social network-based prevention programs, young women's housing and health programs, and housing-first programs for peripheral youths could be effective strategies for preventing HIV among this population.

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