Using sexually transmitted infection biomarkers to validate reporting of sexual behavior within a randomized, experimental evaluation of interviewing methods

Document Type

Article (peer-reviewed)

Publication Date



This paper examines the reporting of sexual and other risk behaviors within a randomized experiment using a computerized versus face-to-face interview mode. Biomarkers for sexually transmitted infection (STI) were used to validate self-reported behavior by interview mode. As part of a parent study evaluating home versus clinic screening and diagnosis for STIs, 818 women aged 18-40 years were recruited in 2004 at or near a primary care clinic in São Paulo, Brazil, and were randomized to a face-to-face interview or audio computer-assisted self-interviewing. Ninety-six percent of participants were tested for chlamydia, gonorrhea, and trichomoniasis. Reporting of STI risk behavior was consistently higher with the computerized mode of interview. Stronger associations between risk behaviors and STI were found with the computerized interview after controlling for sociodemographic factors. These results were obtained by using logistic regression approaches, as well as statistical methods that address potential residual confounding and covariate endogeneity. Furthermore, STI-positive participants were more likely than STI-negative participants to underreport risk behavior in the face-to-face interview. Results strongly suggest that computerized interviewing provides more accurate and reliable behavioral data. The analyses also confirm the benefits of using data on prevalent STIs for externally validating behavioral reporting.