Using mobile phone data to reveal risk flow networks underlying the HIV epidemic in Namibia


Twenty-six million people are living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa; epidemics are widely dispersed, due to high levels of mobility. However, global elimination strategies do not consider mobility. We use Call Detail Records from 9 billion calls/texts to model mobility in Namibia; we quantify the epidemic-level impact by using a mathematical framework based on spatial networks. We find complex networks of risk flows dispersed risk countrywide: increasing the risk of acquiring HIV in some areas, decreasing it in others. Overall, 40% of risk was mobility-driven. Networks contained multiple risk hubs. All constituencies (administrative units) imported and exported risk, to varying degrees. A few exported very high levels of risk: their residents infected many residents of other constituencies. Notably, prevalence in the constituency exporting the most risk was below average. Large-scale networks of mobility-driven risk flows underlie generalized HIV epidemics in sub-Saharan Africa. In order to eliminate HIV, it is likely to become increasingly important to implement innovative control strategies that focus on disrupting risk flows.

In Nature Communications
Eugenio Valdano
Eugenio Valdano
Principal Investigator