Skip to main content

Demonstration Studies

Pilot or demonstration studies of Social Network Strategies (SNS) have been conducted in cities and states around the country. Click on the individual blue boxes below to learn more about the results of this research in each location, view links to the published articles, and read a summary (abstract) of each research study.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Use of social networks to identify persons with undiagnosed HIV infection–seven U.S. cities, October 2003-September 2004. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2005;54(24):601-605.

An estimated 250,000 persons living with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in the United States are not aware of their infections and their risk for transmitting HIV. As part of CDC’s Advancing HIV Prevention Initiative, identifying persons with undiagnosed HIV infection and linking them to medical care and prevention services is a national priority. In 2003, a 2-year demonstration project was begun with nine community-based organizations (CBOs) in seven cities to evaluate the effectiveness of using a social network strategy at multiple sites to identify persons at risk for HIV infection and direct them to HIV counseling, testing, and referral (CTR). In this strategy, HIV-positive persons and HIV-negative persons at high risk (i.e., recruiters) are enlisted to recruit for CTR persons from their social, sexual, and drug-use networks (i.e., network associates [NAs]) believed to be at risk for HIV infection. This report summarizes preliminary results from the first year of this 2-year project, which indicated that 133 persons recruited 814 NAs, resulting in 46 newly identified HIV infections (approximately 6% of all persons tested). Health departments and CBOs should consider this strategy as an effective method for recruiting persons for CTR and identifying those with undiagnosed HIV infection.

Baytop C, Royal S, Hubbard McCree D, et al. Comparison of strategies to increase HIV testing among African-American gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men in Washington, DC. AIDS Care. 2014;26(5):608-612. doi:10.1080/09540121.2013.845280

This paper presents results from a study conducted to compare the relative effectiveness of three strategies – alternate venue testing (AVT), the social network strategy (SNS), and partner counseling and referral services (PCRS; standard care) – for reaching and motivating previously undiagnosed, African-American men who have sex with men (AA MSM) to be tested for HIV. Data were collected between June 2008 and February 2010 at a gay-identified, community-based organization (CBO) serving AA MSM in Washington, DC. Men were eligible to participate if they were 18-64 years old, self-identified as black or African-American, were biologically male, and self-reported oral or anal sex with a man in the past six months. Fisher’s exact test of independence was used to assess differences in demographics, testing history, HIV status and sexual behaviors across the three strategies. The final sample included 470 men who met all eligibility requirements. There were no statistically significant differences in HIV positivity rates across the three strategies. However, relative to standard care, the SNS, and (to a lesser degree) the AVT strategies were more successful in recruiting men that had never been tested. Additionally, the results indicate that each strategy recruited different subgroups of men. Specifically, heterosexually identified men and men who reported engaging in unprotected sex were most likely to be recruited via SNS. Bisexually identified men and older men were most likely to be recruited via AVT or SNS, while standard care tended to reach greater proportions of young men and homosexually identified men. These findings suggest that a combination of strategies may be the best approach for engaging African-American MSM in HIV testing.

McCree DH, Millett G, Baytop C, et al. Lessons learned from use of social network strategy in HIV testing programs targeting African American men who have sex with men. Am J Public Health. 2013;103(10):1851-1856. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2013.301260

OBJECTIVES: We report lessons derived from implementation of the Social Network Strategy (SNS) into existing HIV counseling, testing, and referral services targeting 18- to 64-year-old Black gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM).

METHODS: The SNS procedures used in this study were adapted from a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-funded, 2-year demonstration project involving 9 community-based organizations (CBOs) in 7 cities. Under the SNS, HIV-positive and HIV-negative men at high risk for HIV (recruiters) were enlisted to identify and recruit persons from their social, sexual, or drug-using networks (network associates) for HIV testing. Sites maintained records of modified study protocols for ascertaining lessons learned. The study was conducted between April 2008 and May 2010 at CBOs in Washington, DC, and New York, New York, and at a health department in Baltimore, Maryland.

RESULTS: Several common lessons regarding development of the plan, staffing, training, and use of incentives were identified across the sites. Collectively, these lessons indicate use of SNS is resource-intensive, requiring a detailed plan, dedicated staff, and continual input from clients and staff for successful implementation.

CONCLUSIONS: SNS may provide a strategy for identifying and targeting clusters of high-risk Black MSM for HIV testing. Given the resources needed to implement the strategy, additional studies using an experimental design are needed to determine the cost-effectiveness of SNS compared with other testing strategies.

Schumann C, Kahn D, Broaddus M, et al. Implementing a standardized social networks testing strategy in a low HIV prevalence jurisdiction. AIDS Behav. 2019;23(Suppl 1):41-47. doi:10.1007/s10461-018-2146-x

Alternative HIV testing strategies are needed to engage individuals not reached by traditional clinical or non-clinical testing programs. A social networks recruitment strategy, in which people at risk for or living with HIV are enlisted and trained by community-based agencies to recruit individuals from their social, sexual, or drug-using networks for HIV testing, demonstrates higher positivity rates compared to other non-clinical recruitment strategies in some jurisdictions. During 2013-2015, a social networks testing protocol was implemented in Wisconsin to standardize an existing social networks testing program. Six community-based, non-clinical agencies with multiple sites throughout the state implemented the protocol over the 2-year period. Both quantitative and qualitative data were collected. The new positivity rate (0.49%) through social networks testing did not differ from that of traditional counseling, testing, and referral recruitment methods (0.48%). Although social networks testing did not yield a higher new positivity rate compared to other testing strategies, it proved to be successful at reaching high risk individuals who may not otherwise engage in HIV testing.

McGoy SL, Pettit AC, Morrison M, et al. Use of Social Network Strategy Among Young Black Men Who Have Sex With Men for HIV Testing, Linkage to Care, and Reengagement in Care, Tennessee, 2013-2016. Public Health Rep. 2018;133(2_suppl):43S-51S.

OBJECTIVES: Tennessee was 1 of 8 states that received funding from the Care and Prevention in the United States Demonstration Project, which aimed to reduce HIV-related morbidity and mortality among racial/ethnic and sexual minority populations. The objective of this study was to describe implementation of a social network strategy (SNS) program, which leverages personal connections in social networks, to reach people with undiagnosed HIV infection for HIV testing. We targeted young black men who have sex with men (MSM) at 3 agencies in Memphis and Nashville, Tennessee, during 2013-2016.

METHODS: Specialists at the 3 agencies identified MSM with and without diagnosed HIV infection (i.e., recruiters) who could recruit members from their social networks for HIV testing (i.e., network associates). Both recruiters and network associates received OraQuick rapid and confirmatory HIV tests. We used X2 and Fisher exact tests to assess differences in demographic characteristics, HIV testing, and care engagement status by agency.

RESULTS: Of 1752 people who were tested for HIV in the SNS program, 158 (9.0%) tested positive; of these, 80 (50.6%) were newly diagnosed with HIV. Forty-seven of the 78 (60.3%) people who were previously diagnosed with HIV were not in care in the previous 12 months; of these, 27 (57.4%) were reengaged in medical care. Of 80 people newly diagnosed with HIV, 44 (55.0%) were linked to care.

CONCLUSIONS: The SNS program ascertained HIV status among a high-risk population in a heavily burdened region. Further program evaluation is needed to understand how to improve linkage to care among people with newly diagnosed HIV.

Lightfoot MA, Campbell CK, Moss N, et al. Using a Social Network Strategy to Distribute HIV Self-Test Kits to African American and Latino MSM. J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr. 2018;79(1):38-45. doi:10.1097/QAI.0000000000001726

BACKGROUND: Men who have sex with men (MSM) continue to be disproportionately impacted globally by the HIV epidemic. Studies suggest that HIV self-testing (HIVST) is highly acceptable among MSM. Social network strategies to increase testing are effective in reaching MSM, particularly MSM of color, who may not otherwise test. We tested a social network-based strategy to distribute HIVST kits to African American MSM (AAMSM) and Latino MSM (LMSM).

SETTING: This study was conducted in Alameda County, California, a large, urban/suburban county with an HIV epidemic mirroring the national HIV epidemic.

METHODS: From January 2016 to March 2017, 30 AAMSM, LMSM, and transgender women were trained as peer recruiters and asked to distribute 5 self-test kits to MSM social network members and support those who test positive in linking to care. Testers completed an online survey after their test. We compared peer-distributed HIVST testing outcomes to outcomes from Alameda County’s targeted, community-based HIV testing programs using X tests.

RESULTS: Peer-distributed HIVST to 143 social and sexual network members, of whom 110 completed the online survey. Compared with MSM who used the County’s sponsored testing programs, individuals reached through the peer-based self-testing strategy were significantly more likely to have never tested for HIV (3.51% vs. 0.41%, P < 0.01) and to report a positive test result (6.14% vs. 1.49%, P < 0.01).

CONCLUSION: Findings suggest that a network-based strategy for self-test distribution is a promising intervention to increase testing uptake and reduce undiagnosed infections among AAMSM and LMSM.

Teixeira da Silva D, Bouris A, Ramachandran A, et al. Embedding a linkage to preexposure prophylaxis care intervention in social network strategy and partner notification services: results from a pilot randomized controlled trial J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr. 2021;86(2):191-199.

BACKGROUND: Increased preexposure prophylaxis (PrEP) uptake among black men who have sex with men and black transgender women (BMSM/TW) is needed to end the HIV epidemic. Embedding a brief intervention in network services that engage individuals in HIV transmission networks for HIV/ sexually transmitted infections testing may be an important strategy to accelerate PrEP uptake.

SETTING: Partner Services PrEP study is a pilot, randomized, control trial to improve linkage to PrEP care among BMSM/TW presenting for network services in Chicago, IL, from 2015 to 2017.

METHODS: BMSM/TW (N = 146) aged 18-40 years were recruited from network services (partners services and social network strategy services). Intervention participants developed an individualized linkage plan based on the information-motivation-behavioral skills model and received minibooster sessions. Control participants received treatment as usual. Sociodemographic, behavioral, and clinical factors were examined at baseline and 3- and 12-month postintervention. Intent-to-treat analyses examined linkage to PrEP care within 3-month postintervention (primary outcome). Secondary outcomes were PrEP initiation, time to linkage to PrEP care, and time to PrEP initiation.

RESULTS: Compared with control participants, a significantly greater proportion of the intervention participants were linked to PrEP care within 3 months (24% vs. 11%; P = 0.04) and initiated PrEP (24% vs. 11%; P = 0.05). Among those linked to PrEP care within the study period, intervention participants were linked significantly sooner than control participants [median (interquartile range) days, 26.5 (6.0-141.8) vs. 191.5 (21.5-297.0); P = 0.05].

CONCLUSION: Study results support the preliminary efficacy of Partner Services PrEP to improve linkage to PrEP care and PrEP initiation among BMSM/TW.

Review Articles

The academic articles below provide systematic reviews or experts’ perspectives on the objective of using Social Network Strategies to increase engagement in HIV prevention or treatment services.

Stojanovski K, Naja-Riese G, King EJ, Fuchs JD. A systematic review of the social network strategy to optimize HIV testing in key populations to end the epidemic in the United States. AIDS Behav. 2021;25(9):2680-2698. doi:10.1007/s10461-021-03259-z

The United States (U.S.) has a plan to end the HIV epidemic by 2030. The plan’s first pillar prioritizes HIV testing. Social Network Strategy (SNS) is an intervention to reach persons not routinely testing for HIV. We conducted a systematic review of SNS to understand its implementation to optimize HIV testing in the U.S. among key populations. The eligibility criteria included peer-reviewed papers based in the U.S. and focused on HIV testing. We identified and thematically analyzed 14 articles to explore factors associated with successful implementation. Key themes included: (1) social network and recruiter characteristics; (2) strategies for and effectiveness of recruiting key populations; (3) use of and types of incentives; (4) trust, confidentiality, and stigma concerns; and (5) implementation plans and real-world guidance. Cohort studies indicated that SNS detects more incident HIV cases. Partnerships with health departments are critical to confirm new diagnoses, as are developing plans that support recruiters and staff. SNS is a promising strategy to optimize HIV testing among key populations.

Ghosh D, Krishnan A, Gibson B, Brown S-E, Latkin CA, Altice FL. Social Network Strategies to Address HIV Prevention and Treatment Continuum of Care Among At-risk and HIV-infected Substance Users: A Systematic Scoping Review. AIDS Behav. 2017;21(4):1183-12

Social network analysis (SNA) and social network-based interventions (SNI) are important analytical tools harnessing peer and family influences critical for HIV prevention and treatment among substance users. While SNA is an effective way to measure social network influences, SNI directly or indirectly involves network members in interventions. Even though these methods have been applied in heterogeneous ways, leading to extensive evidence-based practices, systematic reviews are however, lacking. We searched five bibliographic databases and identified 58 studies involving HIV in substance users that had utilized SNA or SNI as part of their methodology. SNA was used to measure network variables as inputs in statistical/mathematical models in 64 % of studies and only 22 % of studies used SNI. Most studies focused on HIV prevention and few addressed diagnosis (k = 4), care linkage and retention (k = 5), ART adherence (k = 2), and viral suppression (k = 1). This systematic review highlights both the advantages and disadvantages of social network approaches for HIV prevention and treatment and gaps in its use for HIV care continuum.