T-ACASI reduces bias in STD measurements: The National STD and Behavior Measurement Experiment
BACKGROUND: Although telephone surveys provide an economical method for assessing patterns of diagnosed sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and STD-related behaviors in populations, the requirement that respondents report such information to human telephone interviewers introduces an opportunity for substantial reporting bias. Telephone computer-assisted self-interviewing (T-ACASI) surveys substitute a computer for human interviewers when asking sensitive questions.
METHODS: A randomized experiment was embedded in a telephone survey that drew probability samples of the populations of the United States (N = 1543) and Baltimore city (N = 744). Respondents were randomly assigned to have sensitive questions asked either by a T-ACASI computer or by a human telephone interviewer.
RESULTS: Respondents interviewed by a T-ACASI computer were more likely to report STD symptoms [dysuria, genital sores, genital discharge, and genital warts; adjusted odds ratios (ORs) = 1.5-2.8] and a diagnosis of gonococcal or chlamydial infection during the past year (adjusted ORs = 3.6 and 6.1). T-ACASI respondents with a main sex partner in the past year were more likely to report that their partner has had an STD (adjusted OR = 2.4). For some measurements, the impact of T-ACASI was strongest among younger and less-educated respondents. When sampling weights were applied to project National STD and Behavior Measurement Experiment results to the populations of the United States and Baltimore, we found that reliance on data obtained by human interviewers would underestimate the annual incidence of chlamydial and gonococcal infections in these populations by factors of 2.4 to 9.7.
CONCLUSIONS: Compared with human telephone interviewers, T-ACASI surveys obtain increased reporting of STD symptoms, infections, and STD-related behaviors.