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This study describes the risk network structure of persons with HIV infection during its early epidemic phase in Colorado Springs, USA, using analysis of community-wide HIV/AIDS contact tracing records (sexual and injecting drug partners) from 1985 to 1999. Paired partner information from other STD/HIV programme records was used to augment network connections. Analyses were conducted with and without this supplemental information. The results suggest that a combined dendritic and cyclic structural network pattern is associated with low to moderate HIV propagation in Colorado Springs, and may account for the absence of intense propagation of the virus.