Date of Conferral





Public Health


Mary Lou Gutierrez


Drug injection is an increasingly important risk factor in the transmission of blood-borne pathogens, including the hepatitis C virus (HCV) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). The purpose of the study was to examine the influence of social network factors on HCV and HIV. The study was grounded in social network theory and sought to determine whether social network characteristics affect high-risk sexual and drug injection behavior as well as self-reported HIV and HCV status. The study design was a quantitative cross-sectional survey. A total of 181 participants in a needle exchange program completed a survey in Spanish assessing individual drug and sex risk practices as well as gathering information to describe the characteristics of participants' personal networks from an egocentric perspective. General estimating equation techniques were used to analyze the data. Results showed that only social network size was related to risky sexual behavior. Injecting risk behaviors were only impacted by personal network exposures, measured by the average number of years network members had injected. HIV self-reported serum status was correlated with trust, closeness, and number of family members named among the closest 5 network members. Last, HCV self-reported serum status was only related to the years that network members had been injecting drugs. This study has implications for positive social change in that public health practitioners may gain a better understanding of the social network characteristics associated with high-risk behaviors of those infected with HCV and HIV in order to develop health promotion programs to lower infections and mortality.