A comparison of respondent-driven and venue-based sampling of female sex workers in Liuzhou, China.
OBJECTIVES: To compare two methods for sampling female sex workers (FSWs) for bio-behavioural surveillance. We compared the populations of sex workers recruited by the venue-based Priorities for Local AIDS Control Efforts (PLACE) method and a concurrently implemented network-based sampling method, respondent-driven sampling (RDS), in Liuzhou, China. METHODS: For the PLACE protocol, all female workers at a stratified random sample of venues identified as places where people meet new sexual partners were interviewed and tested for syphilis. Female workers who reported sex work in the past 4 weeks were categorised as FSWs. RDS used peer recruitment and chain referral to obtain a sample of FSWs. Data were collected between October 2009 and January 2010. We compared the socio-demographic characteristics and the percentage with a positive syphilis test of FSWs recruited by PLACE and RDS. RESULTS: The prevalence of a positive syphilis test was 24% among FSWs recruited by PLACE and 8.5% among those recruited by RDS and tested (prevalence ratio 3.3; 95% CI 1.5 to 7.2). Socio-demographic characteristics (age, residence and monthly income) also varied by sampling method. PLACE recruited fewer FSWs than RDS (161 vs 583), was more labour-intensive and had difficulty gaining access to some venues. RDS was more likely to recruit from areas near the RDS office and from large low prevalence entertainment venues. CONCLUSIONS: Surveillance protocols using different sampling methods can obtain different estimates of prevalence and population characteristics. Venue-based and network-based methods each have strengths and limitations reflecting differences in design and assumptions. We recommend that more research be conducted on measuring bias in bio-behavioural surveillance.
Weir, SS; Merli, MG; Li, J; Gandhi, AD; Neely, WW; Edwards, JK; Suchindran, CM; Henderson, GE; Chen, X-S
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