JMIR Publications

JMIR Public Health and Surveillance

A multidisciplinary journal that focuses on the intersection of public health and technology, public health informatics, mass media campaigns, surveillance, participatory epidemiology, and innovation in public health practice and research.


Journal Description

JMIR Public Health & Surveillance (JPHS, Editor-in-chief: Travis Sanchez, Emory University/Rollins School of Public Health) is a PubMed-indexed, peer-reviewed sister journal of the Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR), the top cited journal in health informatics (Impact Factor 2016: 5.175). JPH is a multidisciplinary journal with a unique focus on the intersection of innovation and technology in public health, and includes topics like health communication, public health informatics, surveillance, participatory epidemiology, infodemiology and infoveillance, digital disease detection, digital public health interventions, mass media/social media campaigns, and emerging population health analysis systems and tools. 

We publish regular articles, reviews, protocols/system descriptions and viewpoint papers on all aspects of public health, with a focus on innovation and technology in public health.

Apart from publishing traditional public health research and viewpoint papers as well as reports from traditional surveillance systems, JPH was one of the first (if not the only) peer-reviewed journal which publishes papers with surveillance or pharmacovigilance data from non-traditional, unstructured big data and text sources such as social media and the Internet (infoveillance, digital disease detection), or reports on novel participatory epidemiology projects, where observations are solicited from the public.  

Among other innovations, JPH is also dedicated to support rapid open data sharing and rapid open access to surveillance and outbreak data. As one of the novel features we plan to publish rapid or even real-time surveillance reports and open data. The methods and description of the surveillance system may be peer-reviewed and published only once in detail, in a  "baseline report" (in a JMIR Res Protoc or a JMIR Public Health & Surveill paper), and authors then have the possibility to publish data and reports in frequent intervals rapidly and with only minimal additional peer-review (we call this article type "Rapid Surveillance Reports"). JMIR Publications may even work with authors/researchers and developers of selected surveillance systems on APIs for semi-automated reports (e.g. weekly reports to be automatically published in JPHS and indexed in PubMed, based on data-feeds from surveillance systems and minmal narratives and abstracts).

Furthermore, duing epidemics and public health emergencies, submissions with critical data will be processed with expedited peer-review to enable publication within days or even in real-time.

We also publish descriptions of open data resources and open source software. Where possible, we can and want to publish or even host the actual software or dataset on the journal website.


Recent Articles:

  • Source: Pixabay; Copyright: seeseehundhund; URL:; License: Public Domain (CC0).

    Online Perceptions of Mothers About Breastfeeding and Introducing Formula: Qualitative Study


    Background: Although the benefits of breastfeeding are well established for babies and their mothers, many women give formula to their infants. Whether to breastfeed or to give infant formula is a complex decision to make. Many parents use the Internet to find information and support that relate to infant feeding decisions. Objective: The aim of this study was to analyze the perceptions of mothers, who are discussing the topic on Web forums, about introducing infant formula. Methods: This is a qualitative, descriptive, and cross-sectional study on online data from parenting Web forums. The text was analyzed using qualitative content analysis. Results: The analysis resulted in 1 main theme, “balancing between social expectations and confidence in your parental ability,” which is further divided into 3 themes: “striving to be a good mother,” “striving for your own well-being,” and “striving to discover your own path.” Conclusions: Breastfeeding is complex, and health care personnel can, with a more open approach toward formula, create better support for mothers by helping them to be more confident in their parental ability.

  • CARE Hotline SMS text reminder (montage). Source: The Authors /; Copyright: JMIR Publications; URL:; License: Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY).

    Check and Report Ebola (CARE) Hotline: The User Perspective of an Innovative Tool for Postarrival Monitoring of Ebola in the United States


    Background: The response to the 2014-2016 Ebola epidemic included an unprecedented effort from federal, state, and local public health authorities to monitor the health of travelers entering the United States from countries with Ebola outbreaks. The Check and Report Ebola (CARE) Hotline, a novel approach to monitoring, was designed to enable travelers to report their health status daily to an interactive voice recognition (IVR) system. The system was tested with 70 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) federal employees returning from deployments in outbreak countries. Objective: The objective of this study was to describe the development of the CARE Hotline as a tool for postarrival monitoring and examine the usage characteristics and user experience of the tool during a public health emergency. Methods: Data were obtained from two sources. First, the CARE Hotline system produced a call log which summarized the usage characteristics of all 70 users’ daily health reports. Second, we surveyed federal employees (n=70) who used the CARE Hotline to engage in monitoring. A total of 21 (21/70, 30%) respondents were included in the survey analytic sample. Results: While the CARE Hotline was used for monitoring, 70 users completed a total of 1313 calls. We found that 94.06% (1235/1313) of calls were successful, and the average call time significantly decreased from the beginning of the monitoring period to the end by 32 seconds (Z score=−6.52, P<.001). CARE Hotline call log data were confirmed by user feedback; survey results indicated that users became more familiar with the system and found the system easier to use, from the beginning to the end of their monitoring period. The majority of the users were highly satisfied (90%, 19/21) with the system, indicating ease of use and convenience as primary reasons, and would recommend it for future monitoring efforts (90%, 19/21). Conclusions: The CARE Hotline garnered high user satisfaction, required minimal reporting time from users, and was an easily learned tool for monitoring. This phone-based technology can be modified for future public health emergencies.

  • Study personnel practicing the use of the bimodal symptoms reporting system before home visits began in San Marcos, Guatemala, on August 1st, 2016. Source: Image created by the Authors; Copyright: The Authors; URL:; License: Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY).

    Will Participatory Syndromic Surveillance Work in Latin America? Piloting a Mobile Approach to Crowdsource Influenza-Like Illness Data in Guatemala


    Background: In many Latin American countries, official influenza reports are neither timely nor complete, and surveillance of influenza-like illness (ILI) remains thin in consistency and precision. Public participation with mobile technology may offer new ways of identifying nonmedically attended cases and reduce reporting delays, but no published studies to date have assessed the viability of ILI surveillance with mobile tools in Latin America. We implemented and assessed an ILI-tailored mobile health (mHealth) participatory reporting system. Objective: The objectives of this study were to evaluate the quality and characteristics of electronically collected data, the user acceptability of the symptom reporting platform, and the costs of running the system and of identifying ILI cases, and to use the collected data to characterize cases of reported ILI. Methods: We recruited the heads of 189 households comprising 584 persons during randomly selected home visits in Guatemala. From August 2016 to March 2017, participants used text messages or an app to report symptoms of ILI at home, the ages of the ILI cases, if medical attention was sought, and if medicines were bought in pharmacies. We sent weekly reminders to participants and compensated those who sent reports with phone credit. We assessed the simplicity, flexibility, acceptability, stability, timeliness, and data quality of the system. Results: Nearly half of the participants (47.1%, 89/189) sent one or more reports. We received 468 reports, 83.5% (391/468) via text message and 16.4% (77/468) via app. Nine-tenths of the reports (93.6%, 438/468) were received within 48 hours of the transmission of reminders. Over a quarter of the reports (26.5%, 124/468) indicated that at least someone at home had ILI symptoms. We identified 202 ILI cases and collected age information from almost three-fifths (58.4%, 118/202): 20 were aged between 0 and 5 years, 95 were aged between 6 and 64 years, and three were aged 65 years or older. Medications were purchased from pharmacies, without medical consultation, in 33.1% (41/124) of reported cases. Medical attention was sought in 27.4% (34/124) of reported cases. The cost of identifying an ILI case was US $6.00. We found a positive correlation (Pearson correlation coefficient=.8) between reported ILI and official surveillance data for noninfluenza viruses from weeks 41 (2016) to 13 (2017). Conclusions: Our system has the potential to serve as a practical complement to respiratory virus surveillance in Guatemala. Its strongest attributes are simplicity, flexibility, and timeliness. The biggest challenge was low enrollment caused by people’s fear of victimization and lack of phone credit. Authorities in Central America could test similar methods to improve the timeliness, and extend the breadth, of disease surveillance. It may allow them to rapidly detect localized or unusual circulation of acute respiratory illness and trigger appropriate public health actions.

  • Source: Flickr; Copyright: John Tann; URL:; License: Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY).

    Health Information–Seeking Patterns of the General Public and Indications for Disease Surveillance: Register-Based Study Using Lyme Disease


    Background: People using the Internet to find information on health issues, such as specific diseases, usually start their search from a general search engine, for example, Google. Internet searches such as these may yield results and data of questionable quality and reliability. Health Library is a free-of-charge medical portal on the Internet providing medical information for the general public. Physician’s Databases, an Internet evidence-based medicine source, provides medical information for health care professionals (HCPs) to support their clinical practice. Both databases are available throughout Finland, but the latter is used only by health professionals and pharmacies. Little is known about how the general public seeks medical information from medical sources on the Internet, how this behavior differs from HCPs’ queries, and what causes possible differences in behavior. Objective: The aim of our study was to evaluate how the general public’s and HCPs’ information-seeking trends from Internet medical databases differ seasonally and temporally. In addition, we aimed to evaluate whether the general public’s information-seeking trends could be utilized for disease surveillance and whether media coverage could affect these seeking trends. Methods: Lyme disease, serving as a well-defined disease model with distinct seasonal variation, was chosen as a case study. Two Internet medical databases, Health Library and Physician’s Databases, were used. We compared the general public’s article openings on Lyme disease from Health Library to HCPs’ article openings on Lyme disease from Physician’s Databases seasonally across Finland from 2011 to 2015. Additionally, media publications related to Lyme disease were searched from the largest and most popular media websites in Finland. Results: Both databases, Health Library and Physician’s Databases, show visually similar patterns in temporal variations of article openings on Lyme disease in Finland from 2011 to 2015. However, Health Library openings show not only an increasing trend over time but also greater fluctuations, especially during peak opening seasons. Outside these seasons, publications in the media coincide with Health Library article openings only occasionally. Conclusions: Lyme disease–related information-seeking behaviors between the general public and HCPs from Internet medical portals share similar temporal variations, which is consistent with the trend seen in epidemiological data. Therefore, the general public’s article openings could be used as a supplementary source of information for disease surveillance. The fluctuations in article openings appeared stronger among the general public, thus, suggesting that different factors such as media coverage, affect the information-seeking behaviors of the public versus professionals. However, media coverage may also have an influence on HCPs. Not every publication was associated with an increase in openings, but the higher the media coverage by some publications, the higher the general public’s access to Health Library.

  • Source: iStock by Getty Images; Copyright: Bet_noire; URL:; License: Licensed by the authors.

    Factors Associated With Access to HIV Testing and Primary Care Among Migrants Living in Europe: Cross-Sectional Survey


    Background: There is a heavy and disproportionate burden of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection among migrant communities living in Europe. Despite this, the published evidence related to HIV testing, prevention, and treatment needs for migrants is sparse. Objective: The aim of this study was to identify the factors associated with access to primary care and HIV testing among migrant groups living in Europe. Methods: A Web-based survey (available in 14 languages) was open to all people aged 18 years and older, living outside their country of birth in the World Health Organization (WHO) European area. Community organizations in 9 countries promoted the survey to migrant groups, focusing on those at a higher risk of HIV (sub-Saharan Africans, Latin Americans, gay or bisexual men, and people who inject drugs). Multivariable analysis examined factors associated with access to primary care and previous history of an HIV test. Results: In total, 559 women, 395 heterosexual men, and 674 gay or bisexual men were included in the analysis, and 68.1% (359/527) of women, 59.5% (220/371) of heterosexual men, and 89.6% (596/664) of gay or bisexual men had tested for HIV. Low perceived risk was the reason given for not testing by 62.3% (43/69) of gay or bisexual men and 83.3% (140/168) of women and heterosexual men who reported never having tested for HIV. Access to primary care was >60% in all groups. Access to primary care was strongly positively associated with living in Northern Europe compared with Southern Europe (women: adjusted odds ratio, aOR 34.56 [95% CI 11.58-101]; heterosexual men: aOR 6.93 [95% CI 2.49-19.35], and gay or bisexual men: aOR 2.53 [95% CI 1.23-5.19]), whereas those with temporary residency permits were less likely to have access to primary care (women: aOR 0.41 [95% CI 0.21-0.80] and heterosexual men: aOR 0.24 [95% CI 0.10-0.54] only). Women who had experience of forced sex (aOR 3.53 [95% CI 1.39-9.00]) or postmigration antenatal care (aOR 3.07 [95% CI 1.55-6.07]) were more likely to have tested for HIV as were heterosexual men who had access to primary care (aOR 3.13 [95% CI 1.58-6.13]) or reported “Good” health status (aOR 2.94 [95% CI 1.41-5.88]). Conclusions: Access to primary care is limited by structural determinants such as immigration and health care policy, which varies across Europe. For those migrants who can access primary care and other health services, missed opportunities for HIV testing remain a barrier to earlier testing and diagnosis for migrants in Europe. Clinicians should be aware of these potential structural barriers to HIV testing as well as low perception of HIV risk in migrant groups.

  • "Take our survey" recruitment image. Source: iStock by Getty Images; Copyright: FGorgun; URL:; License: Licensed by the authors.

    Examining E-Loyalty in a Sexual Health Website: Cross-Sectional Study


    Background: Web-based sexual health resources are typically evaluated in terms of their efficacy. Information is lacking about how sexual health promotion websites are perceived and used. It is essential to understand website use to address challenges with adherence and attrition to Web-based health interventions. An existing theoretical framework for examining loyalty to electronic health (eHealth) interventions has been not yet been applied in the context of sexual health promotion nor has the association between e-loyalty and intended intervention efficacy outcomes been investigated. Objective: The objectives of this study were to investigate users’ loyalty toward a sexual health website (ie, e-loyalty), measure user perceptions of the website, and measure the association between e-loyalty and perceived knowledge increase and intent to change behavior. Methods: Over 4 months, website users (clients and health care providers) participated in an open, online, cross-sectional survey about their user experiences that measured e-loyalty, user perceptions, and intended website efficacy outcomes. Relationships between user perceptions and e-loyalty were investigated using structural equation modeling (SEM). Associations between e-loyalty and website efficacy outcomes were tested using Spearman rank correlation. Results: A total of 173 participants completed user perception questions and were included in the analysis. E-loyalty was high for both clients and providers and was significantly correlated with clients’ perceived knowledge increase (ρ(171)=.30, P<.001), their intent to have safer sex (ρ(171)=.24, P=.01), and their intent to get tested for sexually transmitted infections (ρ(171)=.37, P<.001). The SEM showed that trustworthiness, overall experience, active trust, and effectiveness were directly related to e-loyalty. Finding the website “easy to understand” was significantly related to active trust (ie, participants’ willingness to act upon information presented on the website). Conclusions: E-loyalty may be related to the efficacy of the selected website in improving one’s sexual health and was significantly associated with all three intended knowledge and behavioral outcomes. To increase e-loyalty, trustworthiness and active trust are important user perceptions to deliberately engender. Our findings indicate that understanding a website contributes to active trust, thereby highlighting the importance of considering eHealth literacy in designing health promotion websites. Our study confirms the relevance of e-loyalty as an outcome for evaluating the antecedents of the use and efficacy of online public health interventions across disciplines by adapting and validating an existing e-loyalty framework to the field of sexual health promotion. Our findings suggest that e-loyalty is positively associated with measures of website efficacy, including increased knowledge and intent to change behavior. Longitudinal research with larger samples could further investigate the relationships between e-loyalty, website understandability, and outcomes of online health interventions to determine how the manipulation of website characteristics may impact user perceptions and e-loyalty.

  • Source: Shutterstock; Copyright:; URL:; License: Licensed by the authors.

    Combining Participatory Influenza Surveillance with Modeling and Forecasting: Three Alternative Approaches


    Background: Influenza outbreaks affect millions of people every year and its surveillance is usually carried out in developed countries through a network of sentinel doctors who report the weekly number of Influenza-like Illness cases observed among the visited patients. Monitoring and forecasting the evolution of these outbreaks supports decision makers in designing effective interventions and allocating resources to mitigate their impact. Objective: Describe the existing participatory surveillance approaches that have been used for modeling and forecasting of the seasonal influenza epidemic, and how they can help strengthen real-time epidemic science and provide a more rigorous understanding of epidemic conditions. Methods: We describe three different participatory surveillance systems, WISDM (Widely Internet Sourced Distributed Monitoring), Influenzanet and Flu Near You (FNY), and show how modeling and simulation can be or has been combined with participatory disease surveillance to: i) measure the non-response bias in a participatory surveillance sample using WISDM; and ii) nowcast and forecast influenza activity in different parts of the world (using Influenzanet and Flu Near You). Results: WISDM-based results measure the participatory and sample bias for three epidemic metrics i.e. attack rate, peak infection rate, and time-to-peak, and find the participatory bias to be the largest component of the total bias. The Influenzanet platform shows that digital participatory surveillance data combined with a realistic data-driven epidemiological model can provide both short-term and long-term forecasts of epidemic intensities, and the ground truth data lie within the 95 percent confidence intervals for most weeks. The statistical accuracy of the ensemble forecasts increase as the season progresses. The Flu Near You platform shows that participatory surveillance data provide accurate short-term flu activity forecasts and influenza activity predictions. The correlation of the HealthMap Flu Trends estimates with the observed CDC ILI rates is 0.99 for 2013-2015. Additional data sources lead to an error reduction of about 40% when compared to the estimates of the model that only incorporates CDC historical information. Conclusions: While the advantages of participatory surveillance, compared to traditional surveillance, include its timeliness, lower costs, and broader reach, it is limited by a lack of control over the characteristics of the population sample. Modeling and simulation can help overcome this limitation as well as provide real-time and long-term forecasting of influenza activity in data-poor parts of the world.

  • Source: Pixabay; Copyright: Edar; URL:; License: Public Domain (CC0).

    Online Influence and Sentiment of Fitness Tweets: Analysis of Two Million Fitness Tweets


    Background: Publicly available fitness tweets may provide useful and in-depth insights into the real-time sentiment of a person’s physical activity and provide motivation to others through online influence. Objective: The goal of this experimental approach using the fitness Twitter dataset is two-fold: (1) to determine if there is a correlation between the type of activity tweet (either workout or workout+, which contains the same information as a workout tweet but has additional user-generated information), gender, and one’s online influence as measured by Klout Score and (2) to examine the sentiment of the activity-coded fitness tweets by looking at real-time shared thoughts via Twitter regarding their experiences with physical activity and the associated mobile fitness app. Methods: The fitness tweet dataset includes demographic and activity data points, including minutes of activity, Klout Score, classification of each fitness tweet, the first name of each fitness tweet user, and the tweet itself. Gender for each fitness tweet user was determined by a first name comparison with the US Social Security Administration database of first names and gender. Results: Over 184 days, 2,856,534 tweets were collected in 23 different languages. However, for the purposes of this study, only the English-language tweets were analyzed from the activity tweets, resulting in a total of 583,252 tweets. After assigning gender to Twitter usernames based on the Social Security Administration database of first names, analysis of minutes of activity by both gender and Klout influence was determined. The mean Klout Score for those who shared their workout data from within four mobile apps was 20.50 (13.78 SD), less than the general Klout Score mean of 40, as was the Klout Score at the 95th percentile (40 vs 63). As Klout Score increased, there was a decrease in the number of overall workout+ tweets. With regards to sentiment, fitness-related tweets identified as workout+ reflected a positive sentiment toward physical activity by a ratio of 4 to 1. Conclusions: The results of this research suggest that the users of mobile fitness apps who share their workouts via Twitter have a lower Klout Score than the general Twitter user and that users who chose to share additional insights into their workouts are more positive in sentiment than negative. We present a novel perspective into the physical activity messaging from within mobile fitness apps that are then shared over Twitter. By moving beyond the numbers and evaluating both the Twitter user and the emotions tied to physical activity, future research could analyze additional relationships between the user’s online influence, the enjoyment of the physical activity, and with additional analysis a long-term retention strategy for the use of a fitness app.

  • Source: Flickr; Copyright: Patrick Nouhailler; URL:; License: Creative Commons Attribution + ShareAlike (CC-BY-SA).

    Knowledge, Attitudes, and Practices Regarding Zika: Paper- and Internet-Based Survey in Zhejiang, China


    Background: As public access to the Internet increases, many health workers prefer to carry out health education online, reducing the use of traditional community-based health education methods. Since March 2016, four Zika cases have been confirmed in Zhejiang, China. Rapid assessment of people’s knowledge, attitudes, and practices (KAP) regarding Zika is crucial to its prevention and control. Web-based surveys to assess public KAP may be a growing trend; however, we had little experience with this method. Objectives: The aim of this study was to explore KAP regarding Zika in residents of Zhejiang using both traditional paper- and innovative Internet-based investigations. Methods: A questionnaire was designed by Zhejiang Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention. A paper-based version of the survey was used in a cross-sectional community study following multistage cluster random sampling, and an Internet-based survey was promoted through a local health education site. Data were interpreted via univariate and multivariate analyses. Results: A total of 447 community residents participated in the paper-based survey, with a response rate of 89.4% (447/500), and 621 eligible Internet users participated in the Internet-based survey, with a response rate of 36.92% (621/1682). Age, education level, and occupation differed significantly between participants in the paper- and Internet-based surveys. Participants completing the Internet-based survey were much younger (χ22=144.7, P<.001) and had a higher level of education (χ22=423.5, P<.001) than those completing the paper-based survey. Among participants completing the paper-based survey, there were more farmers, housewives, and unemployed people (χ23=413.7, P<.001). Overall, 83.52% of participants (892/1068) knew the transmission route for Zika, 76.12% (813/1068) knew that pregnant women were at high risk of severe complications, 66.39% (709/1068) knew that contracting Zika during pregnancy could lead to newborn babies with microcephaly, and 98.88% (1056/1068) knew places where mosquitos could usually be found. After controlling for sociodemographic variables, participants completing the Internet-based survey were more likely to know the transmission route of Zika (odds ratio [OR]=5.0, 95% CI 3.0-8.0), the association between pregnant women with Zika and newborn babies with microcephaly (OR 2.1, 95% CI 1.4-3.0), and that pregnant women were at high risk for Zika (OR 5.5, 95% CI 3.5-8.4) than those completing the paper-based survey. They were less likely to worry about contracting Zika (OR 0.6, 95% CI 0.4-0.9) and more likely to actively seek information about Zika than participants completing the paper-based survey (OR 3.3, 95% CI 2.0-5.6). Conclusions: Participants completing the Internet-based survey had a higher level of basic knowledge and more positive attitudes and behaviors than participants completing the paper-based survey. In addition to providing Web-based health information, the government should ensure sufficient access to health information for the elderly and less educated people in the community to improve health equity.

  • Lighting a cannabis cigarette. Source: Flickr; Copyright: ExtensivelyReviewed; URL:; License: Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY).

    Adverse Reactions Associated With Cannabis Consumption as Evident From Search Engine Queries


    Background: Cannabis is one of the most widely used psychoactive substances worldwide, but adverse drug reactions (ADRs) associated with its use are difficult to study because of its prohibited status in many countries. Objective: Internet search engine queries have been used to investigate ADRs in pharmaceutical drugs. In this proof-of-concept study, we tested whether these queries can be used to detect the adverse reactions of cannabis use. Methods: We analyzed anonymized queries from US-based users of Bing, a widely used search engine, made over a period of 6 months and compared the results with the prevalence of cannabis use as reported in the US National Survey on Drug Use in the Household (NSDUH) and with ADRs reported in the Food and Drug Administration’s Adverse Drug Reporting System. Predicted prevalence of cannabis use was estimated from the fraction of people making queries about cannabis, marijuana, and 121 additional synonyms. Predicted ADRs were estimated from queries containing layperson descriptions to 195 ICD-10 symptoms list. Results: Our results indicated that the predicted prevalence of cannabis use at the US census regional level reaches an R2 of .71 NSDUH data. Queries for ADRs made by people who also searched for cannabis reveal many of the known adverse effects of cannabis (eg, cough and psychotic symptoms), as well as plausible unknown reactions (eg, pyrexia). Conclusions: These results indicate that search engine queries can serve as an important tool for the study of adverse reactions of illicit drugs, which are difficult to study in other settings.

  • Source: The Authors /; Copyright: JMIR Publications; URL:; License: Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY).

    Preliminary Findings of a Technology-Delivered Sexual Health Promotion Program for Black Men Who Have Sex With Men: Quasi-Experimental Outcome Study


    Background: Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) disproportionately affects black men who have sex with men (MSM), yet there are few evidence-based interventions specifically designed for black MSM communities. In response, the authors created Real Talk, a technology-delivered, sexual health program for black MSM. Objective: The objective of our study was to determine whether Real Talk positively affected risk reduction intentions, disclosure practices, condom use, and overall risk reduction sexual practices. Methods: The study used a quasi-experimental, 2-arm methodology. During the first session, participants completed a baseline assessment, used Real Talk (intervention condition) or reviewed 4 sexual health brochures (the standard of care control condition), and completed a 10-minute user-satisfaction survey. Six months later, participants from both conditions returned to complete the follow-up assessment. Results: A total of 226 participants were enrolled in the study, and 144 completed the 6-month follow-up. Real Talk participants were more likely to disagree that they had intended in the last 6 months to bottom without a condom with a partner of unknown status (mean difference=−0.608, P=.02), have anal sex without a condom with a positive man who was on HIV medications (mean difference=−0.471, P=.055), have their partner pull out when bottoming with a partner of unknown HIV status (mean difference=−0.651, P=.03), and pull out when topping a partner of unknown status (mean difference=−0.644, P=.03). Real Talk participants were also significantly more likely to disagree with the statement “I will sometimes lie about my HIV status with people I am going to have sex with” (mean difference=−0.411, P=.04). In terms of attitudes toward HIV prevention, men in the control group were significantly more likely to agree that they had less concern about becoming HIV positive because of the availability of antiretroviral medications (mean difference=0.778, P=.03) and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PReP) (mean difference=0.658, P=.05). There were, however, no significant differences between Real Talk and control participants regarding actual condom use or other risk reduction strategies. Conclusions: Our findings suggest that Real Talk supports engagement on HIV prevention issues. The lack of behavior findings may relate to insufficient study power or the fact that a 2-hour, standalone intervention may be insufficient to motivate behavioral change. In conclusion, we argue that Real Talk’s modular format facilitates its utilization within a broader array of prevention activities and may contribute to higher PReP utilization in black MSM communities.

  • A train station in Yaoundé, Cameroon. Source: Flickr; Copyright: Elin B; URL:; License: Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY).

    Sampling Key Populations for HIV Surveillance: Results From Eight Cross-Sectional Studies Using Respondent-Driven Sampling and Venue-Based Snowball Sampling


    Background: In using regularly collected or existing surveillance data to characterize engagement in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) services among marginalized populations, differences in sampling methods may produce different pictures of the target population and may therefore result in different priorities for response. Objective: The objective of this study was to use existing data to evaluate the sample distribution of eight studies of female sex workers (FSW) and men who have sex with men (MSM), who were recruited using different sampling approaches in two locations within Sub-Saharan Africa: Manzini, Swaziland and Yaoundé, Cameroon. Methods: MSM and FSW participants were recruited using either respondent-driven sampling (RDS) or venue-based snowball sampling. Recruitment took place between 2011 and 2016. Participants at each study site were administered a face-to-face survey to assess sociodemographics, along with the prevalence of self-reported HIV status, frequency of HIV testing, stigma, and other HIV-related characteristics. Crude and RDS-adjusted prevalence estimates were calculated. Crude prevalence estimates from the venue-based snowball samples were compared with the overlap of the RDS-adjusted prevalence estimates, between both FSW and MSM in Cameroon and Swaziland. Results: RDS samples tended to be younger (MSM aged 18-21 years in Swaziland: 47.6% [139/310] in RDS vs 24.3% [42/173] in Snowball, in Cameroon: 47.9% [99/306] in RDS vs 20.1% [52/259] in Snowball; FSW aged 18-21 years in Swaziland 42.5% [82/325] in RDS vs 8.0% [20/249] in Snowball; in Cameroon 15.6% [75/576] in RDS vs 8.1% [25/306] in Snowball). They were less educated (MSM: primary school completed or less in Swaziland 42.6% [109/310] in RDS vs 4.0% [7/173] in Snowball, in Cameroon 46.2% [138/306] in RDS vs 14.3% [37/259] in Snowball; FSW: primary school completed or less in Swaziland 86.6% [281/325] in RDS vs 23.9% [59/247] in Snowball, in Cameroon 87.4% [520/576] in RDS vs 77.5% [238/307] in Snowball) than the snowball samples. In addition, RDS samples indicated lower exposure to HIV prevention information, less knowledge about HIV prevention, limited access to HIV prevention tools such as condoms, and less-reported frequency of sexually transmitted infections (STI) and HIV testing as compared with the venue-based samples. Findings pertaining to the level of disclosure of sexual practices and sexual practice–related stigma were mixed. Conclusions: Samples generated by RDS and venue-based snowball sampling produced significantly different prevalence estimates of several important characteristics. These findings are tempered by limitations to the application of both approaches in practice. Ultimately, these findings provide further context for understanding existing surveillance data and how differences in methods of sampling can influence both the type of individuals captured and whether or not these individuals are representative of the larger target population. These data highlight the need to consider how program coverage estimates of marginalized populations are determined when characterizing the level of unmet need.

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