In Search of the Holy Grail: Improving Assessments of Sexual Activity in Population Surveys through Collecting Biomarkers

Andrzej Kulczycki, University of Alabama at Birmingham

First developed in forensic medicine, biomarkers of semen exposure have recently been proposed to help validate reports of sexual behavior and assist development of new vaginal methods of contraception and STI/HIV prevention. These biomarkers may overcome various reporting biases and inaccuracies associated with self-reported sexual activity which cannot be fully overcome by behavioral approaches alone. This paper briefly reviews the current state of such biomarkers, including the first rapid test for detecting semen exposure in vaginal swabs. It then presents the rationale for a proteomic approach to developing biomarkers of semen and vaginal fluid, describing the procedures used and findings of an exploratory study that is believed to be the first such application. Initial findings clearly demonstrate the potential of proteomic analysis for developing second-generation biomarkers of semen exposure, although it may still be somewhat premature to expect substantial results applied to the measurement of sexual activity.

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Presented in Poster Session 4