Sex Transm Infect 84:i63-i70 doi:10.1136/sti.2008.030411
  • Supplement

Evaluation of bias in HIV seroprevalence estimates from national household surveys

Open Access
  1. V Mishra,
  2. B Barrere,
  3. R Hong,
  4. S Khan
  1. Macro International Inc, Calverton, Maryland, USA
  1. Dr Vinod Mishra, Demographic and Health Research Division, Macro International Inc, 11785 Beltsville Drive, Calverton, Maryland 20705, USA; vinod.mishra{at}
  • Accepted 15 May 2008


Objectives: To evaluate HIV seroprevalence estimates from demographic and health surveys (DHS) and AIDS indicator surveys (AIS) for potential bias because of non-response and exclusion of non-household population groups.

Methods: Data are from 14 DHS/AIS surveys with HIV testing, conducted during 2003–6. Blood samples were collected and analysed for HIV using standard laboratory and quality control procedures. HIV prevalence among non-tested adults was predicted based on multivariate statistical models of HIV for those who were interviewed and tested, using a common set of predictor variables. Estimates of the size of non-household populations in national censuses were used to assess potential bias because of their exclusion in the household surveys under different assumptions about proportion of adults and HIV prevalence in non-household populations.

Results: Non-tested men had significantly higher predicted HIV prevalence than those tested in eight of the 14 countries, while non-tested women had significantly higher predicted prevalence than those tested in seven of the 14 countries. Effects of non-response were somewhat stronger in lower-prevalence countries. The overall effect of non-response on observed national HIV estimates was small and insignificant in all countries. Estimated effects of exclusion of non-household population groups were generally small, even in concentrated epidemics in India and Cambodia under the scenario that 75% of the non-household population was adults having 20 times greater HIV prevalence than adults in household surveys.

Conclusions: Non-response and the exclusion of non-household population groups tend to have small, insignificant effects on national HIV seroprevalence estimates obtained from household surveys.


  • Funding: Funding for this research was provided by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) through the MEASURE Demographic and Health Surveys project.

  • Competing interests: All four authors work for Macro International Inc, the agency that helps to conduct demographic and health surveys and AIDS indicator surveys around the world.

  • Contributors: VM planned and drafted the paper. RH and SK carried out the analysis and contributed to revising the paper. BB contributed to the conceptualisation of the analysis and revising the paper.

    Disclaimer: The views presented in this manuscript are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the funding agencies or the organisations to which the authors belong.