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TeraTech's New ACASI Software Increases Survey Accuracy While Protecting the Privacy of Participants in HIV Risk and Drug Abuse Surveys

ROCKVILLE, Md., Jan. 22 /PRNewswire/ -- TeraTech, Inc., has developed a new audio computer-assisted self interview software package called ACASI that uses telephony and database technology to offer greater privacy to people responding to surveys about HIV risk and drug abuse, while generating survey results that are more statistically significant than was previously possible.

ACASI overcomes one of the biggest problems with drug abuse and HIV risk surveys by removing the need to have a real person asking the questions. Instead, survey questions are pre-recorded and played back through the sound system of a computer. Respondents select an answer by pressing a number that corresponds to one of the choices shown on the screen. The answers are fed directly into a database. Surveys can also be taken over the telephone, by entering the response on the telephone keypad.

There is significant interest in ACASI from the HIV risk and drug abuse research community because several studies, including a 1997 paper by the National Institute of Drug Abuse, have shown that people are more comfortable admitting risky behaviors to a computer. Installations already include the University of Pennsylvania, where ACASI will be used to conduct surveys about drug abuse and HIV risk behaviors, and a Washington, D.C., methadone maintenance clinic, where ACASI will be used to collect information from new applicants.

"Many people are reluctant to disclose their participation in activities that place them at high risk for becoming infected with HIV," said Dr. Larry Greenfield, president of Audio Data Systems, which will be selling and supporting ACASI. "Yet researchers need accurate information about behavior patterns in order to make reasonable estimates of the at-risk population and develop good preventive programs."

"Putting computers to work increasing privacy may seem to go against current trends, but this was important to us when we designed ACASI," said Michael Smith, president of TeraTech. "Since people are responding to a computer and their answers go directly into the database, we are able to control how much information about each call is stored and provide total anonymity if that is what is desired."

Researchers also benefit from using ACASI. They are free to develop more complex questionnaires, since the computer can ask follow-up questions based on previous answers, skipping questions that are not relevant. ACASI reduces survey bias by guaranteeing that questions are asked in exactly the same way every time. It allows researchers to include people who have traditionally been overlooked, because they were illiterate or did not speak English. ACASI is also usually less expensive than traditional methods of conducting surveys.

ACASI is written in Visual Basic and is customized for each user through a Microsoft Access database. More information about ACASI, including a 21-day free demo available for downloading, can be found at

TeraTech provides custom programming in Visual Basic, Access, Cold Fusion, and other languages. Recent projects include the design of web sites that let visitors obtain information from an organization database, telephony systems, development of statistical routines, and DOS to Windows conversions. TeraTech also develops, sells and supports 36 programming tools for Visual Basic, including the VoxLib[TM] telephony library, and ProMath[TM] math library. A press kit is available at TeraTech's Web site, at

SOURCE TeraTech, Inc.
 -0- 01/22/98

/CONTACT: Michael Smith of TeraTech, 301-424-3903, fax, 301-762-8185, e-mail,; Larry Greenfield of Audio Data Systems, 301-563-6400, fax, 301-563-6608, e-mail,; or Judy Schramm of JMR Consulting, 703-931-9273, fax, 703-824-8482, e-mail,, for TeraTech/

CO: TeraTech, Inc.; Audio Data Systems, Inc. ST: Maryland IN: CPR SU: PDT

JN -- DCTH004 -- 3565 01/22/98 09:03 EST
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Jan 22, 1998
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