We hypothesize that patterns of sexual behavior play a role in the conformation of transmission networks, i.e., the way you behave might influence whom you have sex with. If that was the case, behavioral grouping might in turn correlate with, and potentially predict transmission networking, e.g., proximity in a viral phylogeny. We rigorously present an intuitive approach to address this hypothesis by quantifying mapped interactions between groups defined by similarities in sexual behavior along a virus phylogeny while discussing power and sample size considerations. Data from the Swiss HIV Cohort Study on condom use and hepatitis C virus (HCV) sequences served as proof-of-concept. In this case, a strict inclusion criteria contrasting with low HCV prevalence hindered our possibilities to identify significant relationships. This manuscript serves as guide for studies aimed at characterizing interactions between behavioral patterns and transmission networks. Large transmission networks such as those of HIV or COVID-19 are prime candidates for applying this methodological approach.
Keywords: clusters; hepatitis C virus; sexual behavior; transmission networks.