Potentially interesting papers: Week 51 2011

I had expected this week to be quiet, what with the upcoming festive season and all, but I was pleasantly surprised to find a few titbits to look over and decide ‘yes, I should definitely read this some time soon’.   Therefore, without further ado,  I present:

1.  A simple, yet elegant, study of the interplay of individual and national income in determining who volunteers to be tested for HIV (this paper has been around for a year or so it seems).  It looks like the positive income gradient seen within countries (more income = more testing) is less pronounced in richer countries.  The analysis uses individual income in within-country quintiles, which makes interpretation difficult.  As the authors suggest, one way to look at things is to see this as evidence for the need to focus on poorer people in poor countries.  Another angle would be to see this as evidence that there may be a positive but decreasing slope to the overall relationship internationally – i.e. there is a positive relationship up to some income threshold internationally, and then the relationship levels out.  Which would suggest that focus needs to be on poor people everywhere.  Either way, food for thought.

2. A recent paper on drinking and STI acquisition in the US has me thinking about the causal relationships around sex and drugs (and rock and roll) again.  The paper finds various alcohol-related activities in adolescence linked to various risky behaviours (non-condom use) and self-reported STIs in early adulthood.   The temporality of this relationship is clear, but the almost syndemic nature of the package of behaviours that goes with alcohol and sex – can I call it a lifestyle without implying too much or too little agency? – makes me loath to attribute any direct causal effect from the alcohol to the sex/STI.  Not that the authors of this piece are claiming this, but I remain very unclear on how we might make an impact on STIs through interventions on adolescent behavioural patterns.  Of course, this may just be me banging my ‘social epi’ drum, so you may wish to let me bang it in peace.

3. Here’s something from another field that interests me greatly, but I have never had the time to get into deeply enough.  This is a nice conceptual effort to link human and pathogen behaviour together in an Ordinary Differential Equations setup to consider the mitigating/conflagratory effects of the former on the later in studies of dynamic disease spread.  It doesn’t look too technical for the non-mathematicians amongst us, so might be worth a skim for thought-provocation, if nothing else.

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Potentially interesting papers: Week 50 2011

This week I have three possibilities to tantalize you with, one of which I am immediately set against, but feel I should read.

1. This piece in AIDS Care worries me for two surface reasons.  First, the abstract suggests that it is a quantitative analysis of DHS data being published in AIDS Care, a journal I usually turn to for depth and richness, not number crunching.  But I would never write something off based only on this.  Of more concern is the line “Contrary to the public health literature, women of high SES were also vulnerable to HIV risk”.  I am pretty there is a large literature highlighting this relationship already, which leads me to question the level of background research conducted.

2. A reminder that prevention interventions are acutely context-dependent.

3. I find it strange/disturbing how infrequently we consider the disease context of a community in measuring risk factors for HIV across large areas.  This paper from Zimbabwe, via UNC Chapel Hill, is a nice reminder of the importance of cross-level interactions.

Disclaimer. These posts are based on my reading of titles and abstracts, and all papers may be of much greater/lesser interest/quality than I have concluded based on reading 200 words or fewer.

Interesting titles this week – an introduction

So, as you (the reader, singular), may have noticed there hasn’t exactly been a bunch of new material on this site recently.  You can blame quals (I know I do).  In order that I don’t completely let this blog lapse into the senility it most certainly deserves, I began to search around for material to post that wouldn’t require an hour or two of prep and any kind of serious mental effort.  This is the result.

I currently get three sets of emails a week that remind me of how damn productive my particuar niche(s) of the academosphere are.  One is from the amazing and prodigious Robert Malow.  The sheer quantity of material that this man works through is amazing, and then he formats it up nicely and emails it to very many people around the world.  The topic is HIV, but within that this biweekly publication covers everything from the molecule to society.  And it’s free.

The other two are non-curated emails, one from Google Scholar and the other from PubMed.  The former is entirely based on keyword searches, which makes narrow searches or multiple terms a necessity – especially since it often picks up grey literature.  The latter allows you to use fields to narrow searches down – if you are not already using these generally, and MeSH terms specifically, you are seriously underutilizing the strengths of PubMed.

These three updates provide high sensitivity, but pretty low specificity, and I then use a sophisticated algorithm (a.k.a. The Eyeball Test) to pick out potentially interesting things to read properly.  It is from this two-step procedure that I found all the articles I have blogged about so far, and probably those I will in the future.  But I will never get to blogging about half/98% of those I pick.

My plan, therefore, is to post every week a list of the things I have picked up, but not necessarily yet read.  Partly I hope that this will be of interest, if your interests are very closely aligned to mine (hence the singular reader concept), and partly I hope that this will push me to actually read them myself.  So a win for everyone, possibly.