A comparison of four sampling methods among men having sex with men in China: implications for HIV/STD surveillance and prevention

AIDS Care. 2011 Nov;23(11):1400-9. doi: 10.1080/09540121.2011.565029. Epub 2011 Jun 28.


Sample representativeness remains one of the challenges in effective HIV/STD surveillance and prevention targeting men who have sex with men (MSM) worldwide. Although convenience samples are widely used in studies of MSM, previous studies suggested that these samples might not be representative of the broader MSM population. This issue becomes even more critical in many developing countries where needed resources for conducting probability sampling are limited. We examined variations in HIV and Syphilis infections and sociodemographic and behavioral factors among 307 young migrant MSM recruited using four different convenience sampling methods (peer outreach, informal social network, Internet, and venue-based) in Beijing, China in 2009. The participants completed a self-administered survey and provided blood specimens for HIV/STD testing. Among the four MSM samples using different recruitment methods, rates of HIV infections were 5.1%, 5.8%, 7.8%, and 3.4%; rates of Syphilis infection were 21.8%, 36.2%, 11.8%, and 13.8%; and rates of inconsistent condom use were 57%, 52%, 58%, and 38%. Significant differences were found in various sociodemographic characteristics (e.g., age, migration history, education, income, and places of employment) and risk behaviors (e.g., age at first sex, number of sex partners, involvement in commercial sex, and substance use) among samples recruited by different sampling methods. The results confirmed the challenges of obtaining representative MSM samples and underscored the importance of using multiple sampling methods to reach MSM from diverse backgrounds and in different social segments and to improve the representativeness of the MSM samples when the use of probability sampling approach is not feasible.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • China / epidemiology
  • Epidemiologic Research Design*
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / epidemiology*
  • Homosexuality, Male
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Risk-Taking*
  • Sampling Studies
  • Sexual Behavior / statistics & numerical data*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Syphilis / epidemiology*
  • Transients and Migrants
  • Young Adult