Social Interactions and Social Diseases

Susan Watkins, University of California, Los Angeles
Hans-Peter Kohler, University of Pennsylvania

In this paper, we review what is known about the role of social and sexual networks in the diffusion of sexually transmitted diseases and clarify areas of demographic research that would benefit from new theoretical approaches, new data and new methods. Our focus is on HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases that are among the most rapidly growing diseases through out the developing world, particularly sub-Saharan Africa. Our general conclusion adds to the evidence that sexual networks are the primary mechanism through which HIV is spread and transformed in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) by taking into account the influence of social networks on the structure and composition of sexual networks. We also conclude that theoretical perspectives from the network literature should lead to new data collection and the use of methodologies that are not standard in this area in order to understand better the social dynamics of social diseases.

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Presented in Session 130: Sexual Behavior, Sexual Networks, STDs