The European Physical Journal Special Topics

, Volume 222, Issue 6, pp 1403–1411 | Cite as

Transmission of HIV in sexual networks in sub-Saharan Africa and Europe

  • David A. M. C. van de VijverEmail author
  • Mattia C. F. Prosperi
  • José J. Ramasco
Regular Article Applications in Different Domains


We are reviewing the literature regarding sexual networks and HIV transmission in sub-Saharan Africa and Europe. On Likoma Island in Malawi, a sexual network was reconstructed using a sociometric survey in which individuals named their sexual partners. The sexual network identified one giant component including half of all sexually active individuals. More than 25% of respondents were linked through independent chains of sexual relations. HIV was more common in the sparser regions of the network due to over-representation of groups with higher HIV prevalence. A study from KwaZulu-Natal in South-Africa collected egocentric data about sexual partners and found that new infections in women in a particular area was associated with the number of life-time partners in men. Data about sexual networks and HIV transmission are not reported in Europe. It is, however, found that the annual number of sexual partners follows a scale-free network. Phylogenetic studies that determine genetic relatedness between HIV isolates obtained from infected individuals, found that patients in the early stages of infections explain a high number of new infections. In conclusion, the limited information that is available suggest that sexual networks play a role in spread of HIV. Obtaining more information about sexual networks can be of benefit for modeling studies on HIV transmission and prevention.


Sexual Partner European Physical Journal Special Topic Sexual Partnership Giant Component Sexual Network 
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Copyright information

© EDP Sciences and Springer 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • David A. M. C. van de Vijver
    • 1
    Email author
  • Mattia C. F. Prosperi
    • 2
  • José J. Ramasco
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Virology, Erasmus Medical CentreErasmus UniversityRotterdamThe Netherlands
  2. 2.College of Medicine, Department of Pathology, Immunology and Laboratory Medicine, Emerging Pathogens InstituteUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA
  3. 3.Instituto de Física Interdisciplinaria y Sistemas Complejos IFISC (CSIC-UIB)Palma de MallorcaSpain

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