Social Networks of Substance-Using Populations: Key Issues and Promising New Approaches for HIV


Purpose of Review

This paper presents recent literature on substance using networks and HIV, highlighting renewed and emerging themes in the field. The goal is to draw attention to research that holds considerable promise for advancing our understanding of the role of networks in shaping behaviors, while also providing critical information for the development of interventions, programs, and policies to reduce HIV and other drug-related harms.

Recent Findings

Recent research advances our understanding of networks and HIV, including among understudied populations, and provides new insight into how risk environments shape the networks and health of substance-using populations. In particular, the integration of network approaches with molecular epidemiology, research on space and place, and intervention methods provides exciting new avenues of investigation.


Continued advances in network research are critical to supporting the health and rights of substance-using populations and ensuring the development of high-impact HIV programs and policies.

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Special thanks to Julianna Lopez for her exceptional assistance with the literature search for this paper. Dr. West was supported by funding from NIH/NIDA (K01DA041233) and by a GloCal Fellowship (R25TW009343) funded by the Fogarty International Center, NIMH, the Office of Research on Women’s Health, as well as the University of California Global Health Institute.

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Correspondence to Brooke S. West.

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West, B.S. Social Networks of Substance-Using Populations: Key Issues and Promising New Approaches for HIV. Curr HIV/AIDS Rep 16, 48–56 (2019).

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  • Substance use
  • Social networks
  • HIV
  • Molecular epidemiology
  • Place
  • Intervention