Sociometric risk networks and risk for HIV infection

Am J Public Health. 1997 Aug;87(8):1289-96. doi: 10.2105/ajph.87.8.1289.


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 components 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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Community Networks* / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / epidemiology
  • HIV Infections / transmission*
  • HIV Seroprevalence
  • HIV-1*
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic / methods
  • Male
  • New York City / epidemiology
  • Risk Factors
  • Risk-Taking
  • Sexual Behavior / statistics & numerical data
  • Social Environment*
  • Sociometric Techniques*
  • Substance Abuse, Intravenous / epidemiology
  • Urban Population / statistics & numerical data