Lessons learned from respondent-driven sampling recruitment in Nairobi: Experiences from the field

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Article (peer-reviewed)

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Background: Respondent-driven sampling (RDS) is used in a variety of settings to study hard-to-reach populations at risk for HIV and sexually transmitted infections. However, practices leading to successful recruitment among diverse populations in low-resource settings are seldom reported. We implemented the first, integrated, bio-behavioural surveillance survey among men who have sex with men, female sex workers and people who injected drugs in Nairobi, Kenya. Methods: The survey period was June 2010 to March 2011, with a target sample size of 600 participants per key populations. Formative research was initially conducted to assess feasibility of the survey. Weekly monitoring reports of respondent characteristics and recruitment chain graphs from NetDraw illustrated patterns and helped to fill recruitment gaps. Results: RDS worked well with men who have sex with men and female sex workers with recruitment initiating at a desirable pace that was maintained throughout the survey. Networks of people who injected drugs were well-integrated, but recruitment was slower than the men who have sex with men and female sex workers surveys. Conclusion: By closely monitoring RDS implementation and conducting formative research, RDS studies can effectively develop and adapt strategies to improve recruitment and improve adherence to the underlying RDS theory and assumptions.