Sociometric risk networks and risk for HIV infection

Samuel R. Friedman, Alan Neaigus, Benny Jose, Richard Curtis, Marjorie Goldstein, Gilbert Ildefonso, Richard B. Rothenberg, Don C. Des Jarlais

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

259 Scopus citations


Objectives. This study examined whether networks of drug-injecting and sexual relationships among drug injectors are associated with individual human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) serostatus and with behavioral likelihood of future infection. Methods. A cross-sectional survey of 767 drug injectors in New York City was performed with chain-referral and linking procedures to measure large-scale (sociometric) risk networks. Graph-theoretic algebraic techniques were used to detect 92 connected components (drug injectors linked to each other directly or through others) and a 105-member 2-core within a large connected component of 230 members. Results. Drug injectors in the 2- core of the large component were more likely than others to be infected with HIV. Seronegative 2-core members engaged in a wide range of high-risk behaviors, including engaging in risk behaviors with infected drug injectors. Conclusions. Sociometric risk networks seem to be pathways along which HIV travels in drug-injecting peer groups. The cores of large component can be centers of high-risk behaviors and can become pockets of HIV infection. Preventing HIV from reaching the cores of large components may be crucial in preventing widespread HIV epidemics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1289-1296
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Public Health
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1997
Externally publishedYes


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