Sorting by Race/Ethnicity across HIV Genetic Transmission Networks in Three Major Metropolitan Areas in the United States

Manon Ragonnet-Cronin*, Nanette Benbow, Christina Hayford, Kathleen Poortinga, Fangchao Ma, Lisa A. Forgione, Zhijuan Sheng, Yunyin W. Hu, Lucia V. Torian, Joel O. Wertheim

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


An important component underlying the disparity in HIV risk between race/ethnic groups is the preferential transmission between individuals in the same group. We sought to quantify transmission between different race/ethnicity groups and measure racial assortativity in HIV transmission networks in major metropolitan areas in the United States. We reconstructed HIV molecular transmission networks from viral sequences collected as part of HIV surveillance in New York City, Los Angeles County, and Cook County, Illinois. We calculated assortativity (the tendency for individuals to link to others with similar characteristics) across the network for three candidate characteristics: transmission risk, age at diagnosis, and race/ethnicity. We then compared assortativity between race/ethnicity groups. Finally, for each race/ethnicity pair, we performed network permutations to test whether the number of links observed differed from that expected if individuals were sorting at random. Transmission networks in all three jurisdictions were more assortative by race/ethnicity than by transmission risk or age at diagnosis. Despite the different race/ethnicity proportions in each metropolitan area and lower proportions of clustering among African Americans than other race/ethnicities, African Americans were the group most likely to have transmission partners of the same race/ethnicity. This high level of assortativity should be considered in the design of HIV intervention and prevention strategies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)784-792
Number of pages9
JournalAIDS research and human retroviruses
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2021


  • HIV
  • MSM
  • ethnicity
  • network
  • phylogenetics
  • race
  • transmission

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Virology
  • Infectious Diseases


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