To examine empirically the population-level structure of sexual networks and explore the role they may play in fostering the spread of HIV as well as in explaining the discrepancies observed between indicators of sexual behavior and epidemic outcomes.
The structure of sexual networks is an essential determinant of individual’s HIV infection risk and the dynamics of the AIDS epidemic. While mathematical models point to a significant importance of these sexual network structures, virtually no empirical research of this issue using adequate and comprehensive social-science and biomarker data has been conducted in sub-Saharan countries. The specific aims of the proposed study are therefore include (1) the collection of complete sexual and social network data in selected MDICP villages for male and female young adults, using sophisticated ACASI techniques to increase the accurate reporting of sexual network partners; (2) the analysis of the relationships between sexual networks, social networks and HIV prevalence in MDICP villages, including also analyses between the relationship of social and sexual networks; (c) the investigation of the relationship between the social position in sexual and social networks and reported HIV risk infection, AIDS prevention strategies, sexual and marital histories and respondent’s socioeconomic status; and (d) the development tools for the inference of complete network properties based on the local network data that are collected as part of the MDICP. The proposed pilot project is innovative in its study design and substantive contributions, and it promises to strengthen future proposals that build on the Malawi Diffusion and Ideational Change Project.