Potential drivers of HIV acquisition in African-American women related to mass incarceration: an agent-based modelling study.

Research paper by Joëlla W JW Adams, Mark N MN Lurie, Maximilian R F MRF King, Kathleen A KA Brady, Sandro S Galea, Samuel R SR Friedman, Maria R MR Khan, Brandon D L BDL Marshall

Indexed on: 20 Dec '18Published on: 20 Dec '18Published in: BMC Public Health


The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world. Incarceration can increase HIV risk behaviors for individuals involved with the criminal justice system and may be a driver of HIV acquisition within the community. We used an agent-based model to simulate HIV transmission in a sexual-contact network representing heterosexual African American men and women in Philadelphia to identify factors influencing the impact of male mass incarceration on HIV acquisition in women. The model was calibrated using surveillance data and assumed incarceration increased the number of sexual contacts and decreased HIV care engagement for men post-release. Incarceration of a partner increased the number of sexual contacts for women. We compared a counterfactual scenario with no incarceration to scenarios varying key parameters to determine what factors drove HIV acquisition in women. Setting the duration of male high-risk sexual behavior to two years post-release increased the number of HIV transmissions to women by more than 20%. Decreasing post-release HIV care engagement and increasing HIV acquisition risk attributable to sexually transmitted infections (STIs) also increased the number of HIV transmissions to women. Changing the duration of risk behavior for women, the proportion of women engaging in higher risk behavior, and the relative risk of incarceration for HIV-infected men had minimal impact. The mass incarceration of African American men can increase HIV acquisition in African American women on a population-level through factors including post-release high-risk behaviors, disruption of HIV care engagement among formerly incarcerated men, and increased STI prevalence. These findings suggest that the most influential points of intervention may be programs seeking to reduce male risk behaviors and promote HIV care engagement post-release, as well as STI testing and treatment programs for recently incarcerated men, as well as women with incarcerated partners.