‘Measuring Sexual Behavior in the Era of HIV/AIDS: The Experience of Demographic and Health Surveys and Similar Enquiries’

Department of Maternal and Child Health and Carolina Population Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC 27516, USA. .
Sexually Transmitted Infections (Impact Factor: 3.4). 01/2005; 80 Suppl 2(suppl_2):ii22-7. DOI: 10.1136/sti.2004.011650
Source: PubMed


To review the sexual behaviour data collected in the Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) and other similar national surveys from the perspective of data quality.
Two indicators of premarital and higher risk sexual behaviour were analysed for 31 surveys in 10 countries in sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean. The analysis focused on the internal consistency of trends and gender differences in the reported indicators.
The authors found fluctuating trends in premarital sex in sub-Saharan Africa but consistent increases in Latin America and the Caribbean. Changes in questionnaire design do not seem to contribute to these trends and there is evidence that the increase in premarital sex is genuine in Latin America. Trends in sex with non-spousal, non-cohabiting partners show large fluctuations and inconsistencies between surveys in some countries but not others. Men are consistently more likely to report non-marital sexual partners than women and unmarried women are less likely than unmarried men to report casual partners.
Surveys are potentially a valuable source of information on sexual behaviour but there are sufficient grounds for concern to warrant considerable caution in the use of survey data to monitor trends in sexual behaviour. Survey findings must be evaluated carefully and interpreted in the context of other available information. These results caution against placing heavy emphasis on short term changes in sexual behaviour between individual surveys and highlight the need for attention to quality in data collection.

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    • "Although not entirely related, a multi-country study that examined sexual behaviour using DHS data found high levels of validity of the measures of sexual behaviour. These observations point to minimal problems associated with the validity of responses generated from the DHS [35]. A recent analysis of some popular questions that are used to measure misconceptions about HIV, which have been adopted for TB, also found positive indications about validity [36]. "
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    BMC International Health and Human Rights 09/2013; 13(1):38. DOI:10.1186/1472-698X-13-38 · 1.44 Impact Factor
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    • "For instance, individual covariate information is likely to be unreliable or sparse when dealing with sensitive topics, such as risky sexual behavior, fidelity, or drug use [23]. Sensitive issues such as partaking in risky sexual behavior are of course associated with hiv status, and studies suggest that there are inconsistencies in reporting of sexual behavior in Demographic Health Surveys (dhs) [24,25]. Further, using dhs data from Zambia, one recent study concluded that models based on observed covariates (i.e. "
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    • "The authors recommend using likelihood techniques; however, they caution that the 'numerics can be delicate'. factors is likely to exhibit large measurement errors, and therefore including these factors as explanatory variables in regressions can produce biased estimates and unreliable results (Curtis and Sutherland, 2004). Obtaining accurate results is critical because the results have a potential impact on policy formulation. "
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