How sexual contacts with outsiders contribute to HIV infections within communities

March 4, 2014

While a number of strategies can prevent and control HIV transmission and spread, their effective use depends on understanding the sexual networks within and between communities. A paper published in this week's PLOS Medicine reports a detailed analysis with surprising results from the Rakai district in Uganda, one of the most studied areas of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa.

Mary K. Grabowski, from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, led an international group of scientists in an effort to test the hypothesis that most people who contract HIV outside their household are infected through sex with someone from their local community. However, studying 46 communities within the Rakai district in Uganda, the researchers found that introductions of HIV from outside the community are frequent and seem to contribute substantially to sustaining the HIV epidemic within the community. While the largest fraction of new infections take place within a household, the majority of new infections outside of the household appear to be contracted by sexual contact with partners from outside the community.

Some of the data rely on the accuracy of self-reported sexual partnerships, but the findings were consistent between three different approaches the scientists used to examine the question. And while it is not known whether the situation in communities outside of Rakai is similar, these results suggest that HIV infections by sexual partners from outside the community are common, and that HIV prevention campaigns need to look beyond communities.

Explore further: Study identifies ways to increase HIV testing, reduce HIV infection

More information: Grabowski MK, Lessler J, Redd AD, Kagaayi J, Laeyendecker O, et al. (2014) The Role of Viral Introductions in Sustaining Community-Based HIV Epidemics in Rural Uganda: Evidence from Spatial Clustering, Phylogenetics, and Egocentric Transmission Models. PLoS Med 11(3): e1001610. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1001610

Related Stories

Uganda plans drug boost for AIDS fight

January 30, 2014

Uganda's government is planning to double expenditure on anti-retroviral drugs in an effort to reverse a worsening trend in HIV infections, a senior health official said Thursday.

Overcoming barriers to partner notification of HIV

February 5, 2014

(Medical Xpress)—Among the most difficult barriers to preventing the spread of HIV are those that hamper the notification of sexual and needle-sharing partners that they have been exposed to the infection. In a new study, ...

Recommended for you

Targeting HIV in semen to shut down AIDS

August 18, 2015

There may be two new ways to fight AIDS—using a heat shock protein or a small molecule - to attack fibrils in semen associated with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) during the initial phases of infection, according ...

Vitamin D status related to immune response to HIV-1

June 15, 2015

Vitamin D plays an important part in the human immune response and deficiency can leave individuals less able to fight infections like HIV-1. Now an international team of researchers has found that high-dose vitamin D supplementation ...

HVTN 505 vaccine induced antibodies nonspecific for HIV

July 30, 2015

A study by researchers at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and Duke University helps explain why the candidate vaccine used in the HVTN 505 clinical trial was not protective against HIV infection ...

Why HIV's cloak has a long tail

June 2, 2015

Virologists at Emory University School of Medicine, Yerkes National Primate Research Center, and Children's Healthcare of Atlanta have uncovered a critical detail explaining how HIV assembles its infectious yet stealthy clothing.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.