Cover: Feasibility of Assessing Economic and Sexual Risk Behaviors Using Text Message Surveys in African-American Young Adults Experiencing Homelessness and Unemployment

Feasibility of Assessing Economic and Sexual Risk Behaviors Using Text Message Surveys in African-American Young Adults Experiencing Homelessness and Unemployment

Single-Group Study

Published in: JMIR Formative Research, Volume 4, Number 7 (July 2020), e14833. DOI: 10.2196/14833

Posted on May 27, 2019

by Larissa Jennings Mayo-Wilson, Nancy E. Glass, Alain Labrique, Melissa Davoust, Fred Melch Ssewamala, Sebastian Linnemayr, Matthew W. Johnson


Text messages offer the potential to better evaluate HIV behavioral interventions using repeated longitudinal measures at a lower cost and research burden. However, they have been underused in US minority settings.


This study aims to examine the feasibility of assessing economic and sexual risk behaviors using text message surveys.


We conducted a single-group study with 17 African-American young adults, aged 18–24 years, who were economically disadvantaged and reported prior unprotected sex. Participants received a text message survey once each week for 5 weeks. The survey contained 14 questions with yes-no and numeric responses on sexual risk behaviors (ie, condomless sex, sex while high or drunk, and sex exchange) and economic behaviors (ie, income, employment, and money spent on HIV services or products). Feasibility measures were the number of participants who responded to the survey in a given week, the number of questions to which a participant responded in each survey, and the number of hours spent from sending a survey to participants to receiving their response in a given week. One discussion group was used to obtain feedback.


Overall, 65% (n=11/17) of the participants responded to at least one text message survey compared with 35% (n=6/17) of the participants who did not respond. The majority (n=7/11, 64%) of the responders were women. The majority (n=4/6, 67%) of nonresponders were men. An average of 7.6 participants (69%) responded in a given week. Response rates among ever responders ranged from 64% to 82% across the study period. The mean number of questions answered each week was 12.6 (SD 2.7; 90% of all questions), ranging from 72% to 100%. An average of 6.4 participants (84%) answered all 14 text message questions in a given week, ranging from 57% to 100%. Participants responded approximately 8.7 hours (SD 10.3) after receiving the survey. Participants were more likely to answer questions related to employment, condomless sex, and discussions with sex partners. Nonresponse or skip was more often used for questions at the end of the survey relating to sex exchange and money spent on HIV prevention services or products. Strengths of the text message survey were convenience, readability, short completion time, having repeated measures over time, and having incentives.


Longitudinal text message surveys may be a valuable tool for assessing HIV-related economic and sexual risk behaviors.

Research conducted by

This report is part of the RAND external publication series. Many RAND studies are published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals, as chapters in commercial books, or as documents published by other organizations.

RAND is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.