Men who have sex with men (MSM) are the group at highest risk for HIV in China. Researchers have used various recruitment methods to reach this population hidden from the hetero-normative culture. To inform future recruitment strategies, we compared estimates of socio-demographic characteristics, HIV risk behaviors, depression, and intimate partner violence (IPV) across three samples of MSM and money boys in Shanghai, China. Data were collected from three community-based samples of MSM and money boys (n = 1352) recruited via respondent-driven sampling (RDS) (n = 404), community popular opinion leaders (CPOL) (n = 385), and Internet and venue-based sampling (VBS) (n = 546). Different recruitment methods generated samples with statistically significant differences among a number of socio-demographic characteristics, sexual behaviors, drug use, depression scores, and exposure to IPV. Specifically, RDS participants had lower education (p = .002), income levels (p < .001), and were more likely to report condomless sex with a woman (p < .001). CPOL participants were younger (p < .001), more likely to report lifetime condomless anal sex (p = .009), more than 10 male partners in the past 30 days (p < .001), and were less likely to experience violence by a male intimate partner (p = .001). VBS participants had lowest depression score (p = .005) and were more likely to report lifetime drug use (p = .003). Our findings reinforce that each recruitment method may reach a sub-group of MSM with a specific risk profile, so multiple methods may be needed to obtain a representative sample of MSM. Interventions may use specific recruitment methods to target certain segments of the MSM population.
Estimating self-reported sex practices, drug use, depression, and intimate partner violence among MSM in China: a comparison of three recruitment methods.