Role of direct and indirect social and spatial ties in the diffusion of HIV and HCV among people who inject drugs: a cross-sectional community-based network analysis in New Delhi, India


Background People who inject drugs (PWID) account for some of the most explosive human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) epidemics globally. While individual drivers of infection are well understood, less is known about network factors, with minimal data beyond direct ties. Methods 2512 PWID in New Delhi, India were recruited in 2017–19 using a sociometric network design. Sampling was initiated with 10 indexes who recruited named injection partners (people who they injected with in the prior month). Each recruit then recruited their named injection partners following the same process with cross-network linkages established by biometric data. Participants responded to a survey, including information on injection venues, and provided a blood sample. Factors associated with HIV/HCV infection were identified using logistic regression. Results The median age was 26; 99% were male. Baseline HIV prevalence was 37.0% and 46.8% were actively infected with HCV (HCV RNA positive). The odds of prevalent HIV and active HCV infection decreased with each additional degree of separation from an infected alter (HIV AOR: 0.87; HCV AOR: 0.90) and increased among those who injected at a specific venue (HIV AOR: 1.50; HCV AOR: 1.69) independent of individual-level factors (p<0.001). In addition, sociometric factors, for example, network distance to an infected alter, were statistically significant predictors even when considering immediate egocentric ties. Conclusions These data demonstrate an extremely high burden of HIV and HCV infection and a highly interconnected injection and spatial network structure. Incorporating network and spatial data into the design/implementation of interventions may help interrupt transmission while improving efficiency..