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Disseminated Effects in Agent Based Models: A Potential Outcomes Framework and Application to Inform Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis Coverage Levels for HIV Prevention.

Abstract

Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for HIV prevention may not only benefit the individual who uses it, but also their uninfected sexual risk contacts. We developed an agent-based model using a novel trial emulation approach to quantify disseminated effects of PrEP use among men who have sex with men in Atlanta, USA from 2015 to 2017. Components (subsets of agents connected through partnerships in a sexual network, but not sharing partnerships with any other agents) were first randomized to an intervention coverage level or control, then within intervention components, eligible agents were randomized to PrEP. We estimated direct and disseminated (indirect) effects using randomization-based estimators and reported corresponding 95% simulation intervals across scenarios ranging from 10% to 90% coverage in the intervention components. A population of 11,245 agents was simulated with an average of 1,551 components identified. Comparing agents randomized to PrEP in 70% coverage components to control agents, there was a 15% disseminated risk reduction in HIV incidence (95% simulation intervals = 0.65, 1.05). Individuals not on PrEP may receive a protective benefit by being in a sexual network with higher PrEP coverage. Agent-based models are useful to evaluate possible direct and disseminated effects of HIV prevention modalities in sexual networks.

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