Recent Article in Discrete Dynamics in Nature and Society

Network Firewall Dynamics and the Subsaturation Stabilization of HIV

Bilal Khan, Kirk Dombrowski, Mohamed Saad, Katherine McLean, and Samuel Friedman


In 2001, Friedman et al. conjectured the existence of a “firewall effect” in which individuals who are infected with HIV, but remain in a state of low infectiousness, serve to prevent the virus from spreading. To evaluate this historical conjecture, we develop a new graph-theoretic measure that quantifies the extent to which Friedman’s firewall hypothesis (FH) holds in a risk network. We compute this new measure across simulated trajectories of a stochastic discrete dynamical system that models a social network of 25,000 individuals engaging in risk acts over a period of 15 years. The model’s parameters are based on analyses of data collected in prior studies of the real-world risk networks of people who inject drugs (PWID) in New York City. Analysis of system trajectories reveals the structural mechanisms by which individuals with mature HIV infections tend to partition the network into homogeneous clusters (with respect to infection status) and how uninfected clusters remain relatively stable (with respect to infection status) over long stretches of time. We confirm the spontaneous emergence of network firewalls in the system and reveal their structural role in the nonspreading of HIV.


HIV Simulation, Injecting Drug Users, Firewall Effect, Agent-Based Simulation, Complex Systems