Evaluating HIV Knowledge Questionnaires Among Men Who Have Sex with Men: A Multi-Study Item Response Theory Analysis

Patrick Janulis*, Michael E. Newcomb, Patrick Sullivan, Brian Mustanski

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Knowledge about the transmission, prevention, and treatment of HIV remains a critical element in psychosocial models of HIV risk behavior and is commonly used as an outcome in HIV prevention interventions. However, most HIV knowledge questions have not undergone rigorous psychometric testing such as using item response theory. The current study used data from six studies of men who have sex with men (MSM; n = 3565) to (1) examine the item properties of HIV knowledge questions, (2) test for differential item functioning on commonly studied characteristics (i.e., age, race/ethnicity, and HIV risk behavior), (3) select items with the optimal item characteristics, and (4) leverage this combined dataset to examine the potential moderating effect of age on the relationship between condomless anal sex (CAS) and HIV knowledge. Findings indicated that existing questions tend to poorly differentiate those with higher levels of HIV knowledge, but items were relatively robust across diverse individuals. Furthermore, age moderated the relationship between CAS and HIV knowledge with older MSM having the strongest association. These findings suggest that additional items are required in order to capture a more nuanced understanding of HIV knowledge and that the association between CAS and HIV knowledge may vary by age.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)107-119
Number of pages13
JournalArchives of Sexual Behavior
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018


  • HIV knowledge
  • Item response theory
  • Men who have sex with men
  • Sexual orientation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • General Psychology


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