Using social networks to understand and intervene on HIV epidemic spread
Dr Guy Harling
University College London
Despite many advances, HIV remains a major problem worldwide, especially in South Africa. One reason for the ongoing epidemic is low uptake of proven interventions, such as regular HIV testing and medicines to protect at-risk people and their partners. We know that people are often more willing to change their behaviour when someone they respect suggests it. My goal is to identify who influences the behaviours of at-risk people, and how these influencers can help prevent HIV transmission.
We will follow a large group of young South Africans for three years. We will see how the important people in their lives change, and how that affects their behaviour and risk of getting HIV. We will then choose people to become peer-educators based on how influential they are. We will see if these people are better at encouraging their friends to take up interventions compared with people chosen at random.
Our findings could help prevent the transmission of HIV in at-risk groups.