|Meeting the Behavioural Data Collection Needs of National HIV/AIDS and STD Programmes (Implementing AIDS Prevention and Care Project - Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS - United States Agency for International Development, 1998, 41 p.)|
HIV continues to spread in most countries of the world. Understanding of the virus is growing, but many behavioural aspects of the epidemic remain incompletely documented and poorly understood. Changes in HIV infection rates over time have been hard to interpret in many contexts because programmes frequently lack complementary information on changes in behaviour. National prevention programmes are sometimes designed with only limited understanding of the size of various populations vulnerable to HIV and the nature and determinants of risk among them. The impacts of prevention programmes on behaviour often remain uncertain because behavioural data is not collected or is seriously incomplete.
These gaps in knowledge are to an extent inherent in the nature of HIV. The virus is spread mainly by behaviours - sexual and drug taking - that are generally private, sometimes illegal, and often difficult to discuss openly. These behaviours are also very dynamic, sometimes altering radically in short periods of time as social and economic changes sweep through countries. But they are the engines driving the epidemic. Unless efforts are made to understand and quantify these behaviours more thoroughly, it will not be possible to gauge who in the population is at risk of infection or to measure changes in behaviour that may increase or reduce people's risk of and vulnerability to HIV. The result then, will be poor and inefficient use of available resources, producing responses with only limited effectiveness.
In recent years, many national AIDS programmes have, together with their national and international partners, begun to collect information on behaviour that puts people at risk of HIV infection. Several countries have found this information invaluable in persuading people to support action against AIDS. It has also been useful in devising and directing effective programmes aimed at cutting risk behaviour, and in demonstrating that people are indeed behaving more safely.
As experience with collecting information about behaviour has grown, it has become apparent that countries have different needs and that behavioural data can meet those needs in different ways, using a variety of methodologies and instruments.
This document aims to describe the contribution behavioural data can make to the planning, execution, and monitoring of HIV prevention activities. It considers the available tools and recommends a minimum data collection package that varies according to the stage a country has reached in its HIV epidemic. The purpose of this document is to guide national programmes in setting up efficient behavioural assessment and monitoring programmes to assist them in programmes design, direction, and evaluation
Compiled by Family Health International and UNAIDS, this document draws on the experience of several organizations and countries in collecting behavioural data.