Background: Individuals entering substance abuse treatment are at elevated risk for HIV infection, and clinicians must generally rely on patient self-report to gauge their involvement in risk behaviors. Strategies to improve accurate reporting of personally sensitive or stigmatizing risk behaviors are needed.
Objective: This study compared computerized and face-to-face interview methods in eliciting self-disclosure of HIV risk behaviors among a high-risk sample of urban African Americans entering substance abuse treatment (N = 146).
Methods: Participants completed a standardized HIV risk behavior screening as a face-to-face interview. Several days later, the same participants completed a computerized self-interview with the same measure, covering the same time frame.
Results: Disclosure rates for many sensitive risk behaviors were considerably higher on the computerized interview. Participants had significantly higher odds of disclosure on the computerized interview compared to the face-to-face interview on 2 of 6 drug risk behaviors examined (ORs between 2.75 and 3.15) and 9 of 13 sex risk behaviors examined (ORs between 1.60 and 6.45). The advantage of the computerized interview was most evident for highly stigmatized behaviors, such as unprotected sex with someone other than a spouse or main partner (OR = 3.93; p < .001), unprotected sex during a commercial sex transaction (OR = 5.63; p < .001), unprotected anal sex (OR = 6.45; p < .001), and using unsterilized syringes (OR = 3.15; p < .05).
Conclusions and scientific significance: Findings support the utility of computerized risk behavior assessment with African Americans entering substance abuse treatment. Computerized assessment of HIV risk behaviors may be clinically useful in substance abuse treatment and other healthcare venues serving high-risk populations.