Social Network Clustering and the Spread of HIV/AIDS Among Persons Who Inject Drugs in 2 Cities in the Philippines

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Abstract

Introduction:

The Philippines has seen rapid increases in HIV prevalence among people who inject drugs. We study 2 neighboring cities where a linked HIV epidemic differed in timing of onset and levels of prevalence. In Cebu, prevalence rose rapidly from below 1% to 54% between 2009 and 2011 and remained high through 2013. In nearby Mandaue, HIV remained below 4% through 2011 then rose rapidly to 38% by 2013.

Objectives:

We hypothesize that infection prevalence differences in these cities may owe to aspects of social network structure, specifically levels of network clustering. Building on previous research, we hypothesize that higher levels of network clustering are associated with greater epidemic potential.

Methods:

Data were collected with respondent-driven sampling among men who inject drugs in Cebu and Mandaue in 2013. We first examine sample composition using estimators for population means. We then apply new estimators of network clustering in respondent-driven sampling data to examine associations with HIV prevalence.

Results:

Samples in both cities were comparable in composition by age, education, and injection locations. Dyadic needle-sharing levels were also similar between the 2 cities, but network clustering in the needle-sharing network differed dramatically. We found higher clustering in Cebu than Mandaue, consistent with expectations that higher clustering is associated with faster epidemic spread.

Conclusions:

This article is the first to apply estimators of network clustering to empirical respondent-driven samples, and it offers suggestive evidence that researchers should pay greater attention to network structure's role in HIV transmission dynamics.

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