Sex Transm Infect 83:490-497 doi:10.1136/sti.2007.024810
  • Research methods

Validity of coital diaries in a feasibility study for the Microbicides Development Programme trial among women at high risk of HIV/AIDS in Mwanza, Tanzania

  1. Caroline F Allen1,
  2. Shelley S Lees2,4,
  3. Nicola A Desmond1,2,
  4. Geoff Der1,
  5. Betty Chiduo2,
  6. Ian Hambleton2,4,
  7. Louise Knight2,4,
  8. Andrew Vallely3,4,
  9. David A Ross4,
  10. Richard J Hayes4
  1. 1Medical Research Council Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK
  2. 2National Institute for Medical Research Mwanza Centre, Tanzania
  3. 3African Medical and Research Foundation
  4. 4London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr Caroline F Allen
 Caribbean Health Research Council, 25a Warner Street, St Augustine, Republic of Trinidad and Tobago; callen.chrc{at} and carolineallen{at}
  • Accepted 26 June 2007
  • Published Online First 27 July 2007


Objectives: To compare coital diaries and face-to-face interviews (FFIs) in measuring sexual behaviour among women at high risk of HIV. To assess the effect of differing levels of support from researchers on reporting in coital diaries and FFIs.

Methods: Three groups of 50 women were randomly selected from a cohort of food and recreational facility workers participating in a microbicide trial feasibility study and received differing levels of researcher support. Minimum support involved delivering and collecting coital diaries weekly; medium support included a weekly FFI and discussion of concerns; intensive support also included an unscheduled mid-week visit when diaries were checked and concerns addressed. All respondents participated in an exit FFI, including questions on sexual behaviour over the four-week study period and study acceptability.

Results: Sexual behaviours were generally reported more frequently in coital diaries than weekly or exit interviews. Vaginal and anal sex, male and female condom use, vaginal cleaning and lubrication, sex during menstruation and sex with irregular and regular partners were reported more frequently in coital diaries than exit interviews. In coital diaries, level of support was associated with reporting of vaginal sex and cleaning. In exit interviews, support level was associated with reporting of vaginal sex, vaginal cleaning and sex with regular, irregular and commercial partners. Women with minimum support reported least satisfaction with the research process. Women with intensive support were most likely to report that they informed someone about their study participation and that they completed diaries daily.

Conclusion: Compared with FFIs, coital diaries resulted in higher reporting of socially stigmatised activities, and sexual behaviour reporting varied less by level of support. More researcher support enhanced study acceptability.


  • Published Online First 27 July 2007

  • Funding: This research forms part of the Microbicides Development Programme, funded by the UK Department for International Development and the UK Medical Research Council.

  • Conflict of interest: None.