, Volume 83, Issue 1 Supplement, pp 16-28,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 23 Sep 2006

Assessment of Respondent Driven Sampling for Recruiting Female Sex Workers in Two Vietnamese Cities: Reaching the Unseen Sex Worker

Abstract

Respondent driven sampling (RDS) is a relatively new method to sample hard-to-reach populations. Until this study, female sex workers (FSWs) in Vietnam were sampled using a variety of methods, including time location sampling (TLS), which may not access the more hidden types of FSWs. This paper presents an analysis from an HIV biological and behavioral surveillance survey to assess the feasibility and effectiveness of RDS to sample FSWs, to determine if RDS can reach otherwise inaccessible FSWs in Vietnam and to compare RDS findings of HIV risk factors with a theoretical TLS. Through face-to-face interviews with FSWs in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) and Hai Phong (HP), data were collected about the venues where they most often solicit their clients. These data were used to create three variables to assess whether FSWs solicit their clients in locations that are visible, semi-visible and non-visible. For this analysis, the visible group simulates a sample captured using TLS. Survey results in HIV prevalence and related risk factors and service utilization, adjusted for sampling methodology, were compared across each of the three FSW visibility groups to assess potential bias in TLS relative to RDS. The number of self-reported visible FSWs (HCMC: n=311; HP: n=162) was much larger than those of the semi-visible (HCMC: n=65; HP: n=43) and non-visible (HCMC: n=37; HP: n=10) FSWs in HCMC and HP. Non-visible FSWs in both cities were just as likely as visible and semi-visible FSWs to be HIV positive (HCMC: visible 14.5%, semi-visible 13.8%, non-visible 13.5%, p value = 0.982; HP: visible 35.2%, semi-visible 30.2%, non-visible 30.0%, p value = 0.801), to practice behaviors that put them at risk for contracting and transmitting HIV (injecting drug use—HCMC: visible 13.8%, semi-visible 12.3%, non-visible 5.4%, p value = 0.347; HP: visible 38.9%, semi-visible 23.3%, non-visible 30.0%, p value = 0.378, to have no condom use in the past month —HCMC only: visible 52.7%, semi-visible 63.1%, non-visible 48.6%, p value = 0.249) and to have symptoms of a sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the past year (HCMC: visible 16.1%, semi-visible 12.3%, non-visible 16.2%, p value = 0.742; HP: visible 13.6%, semi-visible 18.6%, non-visible 20.0%, p value = 0.640). There was a difference found among the visible, semi-visible and non-visible groups in HP for no past month condom use (visible 53.1%, semi-visible 79.1%, non-visible 60.0%, p value = 0.009). This study found that RDS was successful at recruiting hidden types of FSWs in Vietnam. Past reports of FSWs in Vietnam have assessed the more visible FSWs as being the most vulnerable and at risk for HIV. Although the number of visible FSWs is much higher than those of the semi and non-visible groups, this study found that the non-visible FSWs are very vulnerable to HIV infection. If prevention programs are targeting and responding to those who are most likely to be assessed (e.g., more visible types of FSWs) then this analysis indicates that a significant proportion of the FSW population at risk for HIV may not be receiving optimal HIV information and services.