Modeling the Marked Presence-Only Data: A Case Study of Estimating the Female Sex Worker Size in Malawi

Ian Laga, Xiaoyue Niu, Le Bao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Certain subpopulations like female sex workers (FSW), men who have sex with men (MSM), and people who inject drugs (PWID) often have higher prevalence of HIV/AIDS and are difficult to map directly due to stigma, discrimination, and criminalization. Fine-scale mapping of those populations contributes to the progress toward reducing the inequalities and ending the AIDS epidemic. In 2016 and 2017, the PLACE surveys were conducted at 3290 venues in 20 out of the total 28 districts in Malawi to estimate the FSW sizes. These venues represent a presence-only dataset where, instead of knowing both where people live and do not live (presence–absence data), only information about visited locations is available. In this study, we develop a Bayesian model for presence-only data and utilize the PLACE data to estimate the FSW size and uncertainty interval at a (Formula presented.) -km resolution for all of Malawi. The estimates can also be aggregated to any desirable level (city/district/region) for implementing targeted HIV prevention and treatment programs in FSW communities, which have been successful in lowering the incidence of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. Supplementary materials for this article, including a standardized description of the materials available for reproducing the work, are available as an online supplement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)27-37
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of the American Statistical Association
Issue number537
StatePublished - 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Statistics and Probability
  • Statistics, Probability and Uncertainty


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