The feasibility of using mobile phone technology for sexual behaviour research in a population vulnerable to HIV: a prospective survey with female sex workers in South India

An article in AIDS Care.

Sexual behaviour studies are often challenged by sampling, participation and measurement biases, and may be unacceptable to participants. We invited 293 randomly selected female sex workers (FSWs) in Bangalore, India, to participate in a telephone survey, with condom breakage as the main outcome. Free cell phones were supplied and trained interviewers telephoned FSWs daily to ask about all sex acts the previous day.

Later, we undertook focus groups to discuss the methodology with the participants. We evaluated technical and operational feasibility; data reliability and measurement error; emotional and fatigue effects; interviewer bias; survey reactivity effects; and user acceptability. Response rates were high, with 84% of invited participants complying fully with the protocol. The study ran smoothly, with little evidence of biases. The methodology was highly acceptable; the respondents enjoyed using a new telephone and being interviewed at times convenient to them. Other reasons for the success of the method were that the study was sanctioned and supported by the sex worker collective, and the interviewers were well trained and developed a strong rapport with the participants. The success of this methodology, and the wealth of data produced, indicates that it can be an important tool for conducting sexual behaviour research in low literacy, high sex volume populations.

Year of publication: 
Janet Bradley, B.M. Ramesh, S. Rajaram, Anil Lobo, Kaveri Gurav, Shajy Isac, G. Chandra Shekhar Gowda, R. Pushpalatha, Stephen Moses, Kumar D.R. Sunil and Michel Alary