A web-based HIV behavioral surveillance system (WHBS) has potential to collect behavioral data from men who have sex with men (MSM) not reached through traditional sampling methods. Six U.S. cities conducted a WHBS pilot in 2005-2007 to determine the feasibility to conduct a behavioral surveillance project entirely on the internet.
Three sampling methods of adult MSM on the internet were explored: direct marketing (DM) using banner advertisements; respondent-driven sampling (RDS) using peer recruitment; and venue-based sampling (VBS) using internet venues.
A total of 8,434 complete MSM surveys were obtained: 8,109 through DM, 130 through RDS, and 195 through VBS. By methods, enrollment rates ranged from 70-90%; completion rates ranged from 67-95%. DM obtained the largest proportions of racial/ethnic minority MSM (36%) and MSM 18-20 years (19%).
Only the DM method achieved a substantial number of complete MSM surveys. Successful implementation of an internet-based systematic sampling method may be problematic, but a convenience sample of MSM using banner advertisements is feasible and may produce useful and timely behavioral information from a large number of MSM.