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J Infect Dis. 2005 Feb 1;191 Suppl 1:S42-54.

Determinants and consequences of sexual networks as they affect the spread of sexually transmitted infections.

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Center for Reproductive Health Research and Policy, Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences, University of California-San Francisco, San Francisco, CA, USA.


Because pathogens spread only within the unique context of a sexual union between people when one person is infectious, the other is susceptible to new infection, and condoms are not used to prevent transmission, the epidemiological study of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) is particularly challenging. Social network analysis entails the study of ties among people and how the structure and quality of such ties affect individuals and overall group dynamics. Although ascertaining complete sexual networks is difficult, application of this approach has provided unique insights into the spread of STIs that traditional individual-based epidemiological methods do not capture. This article provides a brief background on the design and assessments of studies of social networks, to illustrate how these methods have been applied to understanding the distribution of STIs, to inform the development of interventions for STI control.

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