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Multiplayer games and HIV transmission via casual encounters

Stephen Tully Monica-Gabriela Cojocaru Chris T. Bauch

*Corresponding author:  

MBE2017,2,359doi:10.3934/mbe.2017023

Population transmission models have been helpful in studying the spread of HIV. They assess changes made at the population level for different intervention strategies.To further understand how individual changes affect the population as a whole, game-theoretical models are used to quantify the decision-making process.Investigating multiplayer nonlinear games that model HIV transmission represents a unique approach in epidemiological research. We present here 2-player and multiplayer noncooperative games where players are defined by HIV status and age and may engage in casual (sexual) encounters. The games are modelled as generalized Nash games with shared constraints, which is completely novel in the context of our applied problem. Each player's HIV status is known to potential partners, and players have personal preferences ranked via utility values of unprotected and protected sex outcomes. We model a player's strategy as their probability of being engaged in a casual unprotected sex encounter ($ USE $), which may lead to HIV transmission; however, we do not incorporate a transmission model here. We study the sensitivity of Nash strategies with respect to varying preference rankings, and the impact of a prophylactic vaccine introduced in players of youngest age groups. We also study the effect of these changes on the overall increase in infection level, as well as the effects that a potential prophylactic treatment may have on age-stratified groups of players. We conclude that the biggest impacts on increasing the infection levels in the overall population are given by the variation in the utilities assigned to individuals for unprotected sex with others of opposite $ HIV $ status, while the introduction of a prophylactic vaccine in youngest age group (15-20 yr olds) slows down the increase in $ HIV $ infection.

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