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The Mathematics of Concurrent Partnerships and HIV: A Commentary on Lurie and Rosenthal, 2009



AIDS Behav (2010) 14:29–30 DOI 10.1007/s10461-009-9627-x COMMENTARY Helen Epstein Published online: 29 October 2009 Ó Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009 In their commentary ‘‘Concurrent Partnerships as a Driver of the HIV Epidemic in Sub-Saharan Africa? The Evidence is Limited’’ [1] Mark Lurie and Samantha Rosenthal call for more research on the role sexual partnership concurrency may play in the spread of sexually transmitted infections. Unfortunately this very sensible recommendation is undermined by a number of errors, beginning with the first sentence.1 Evidence for the concurrency hypothesis rests on three bodies of research: 1) 2) 3) Empirical studies of the prevalence of concurrency in different populations. Ethnographic studies suggesting that the concurrency hypothesis is plausible to many people in Africa. Mathematical modeling studies demonstrating that high rates of concurrency can drive high rates of HIV transmission, even when overall numbers of partnerships are low. Mah and Halperin [2, 3] address (1) and (2). I will therefore mainly address Lurie and Rosenthal’s discussion of the modeling studies here. Lurie and Rosenthal’s critique of Morris and Kretzchmar’s mathematical models of concurrency suggests some misunderstanding. Morris and Kretzchmar [4] compare the spread of a hypothetical STI through sexual networks in which long



AIDS and BehaviorSpringer Journals

Published: Feb 1, 2010

DOI: 10.1007/s10461-009-9627-x

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