|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.)|
Behavioural data are of little value unless they are used for the benefit of the people from whom they were collected. The various reasons for tracking behaviour were discussed at the beginning of this document. This section describes the particular uses of the data once they have been collected and analysed.
Encouraging policymakers to support and promote HIV prevention
Public health officials need no convincing about the importance of dedicating time and resources to prevent further spread of HIV. The same cannot always be said for policymakers in other sectors, who are confronted with pressing priorities of their own.
In the early phases of the epidemic, well-designed, credible behavioural data can warn of the possibility of rapid HIV spread and encourage policymakers to act to prevent that spread. But this can happen only if the data are presented in language that policymakers can understand and in ways to which they can respond. The best ways to present behavioural data will vary according to the target audience: a ministry of education may be interested in knowledge and attitudes among youth, while a ministry of labour may want to know how widespread risk behaviour is in the urban adult population. The finance ministry might be startled by the implications of financing health care if 10 percent of those reporting risk behaviour were to become infected with HIV.
A comprehensive approach to promoting HIV prevention requires data on both the general population and groups at high risk for infecting themselves and others. Behavioural data on a mix of these groups improves understanding of who is at high risk and how (or if) risk patterns are changing. In other words, general population data provide information about unknown levels of risk in the overall population, whereas data on groups with high levels of risk behaviour provide more immediate information on the subpopulations that have the biggest impact on the epidemic.
Demonstrating that behaviours do change following prevention activities, both in groups with higher levels of risk behaviour and in the general population, is one of the most effective ways of increasing support for prevention activities. Behavioural data showing changes over time should be presented simply and rapidly to policymakers who have the power to influence funding levels and programme direction.
Making the public aware of the threat posed by HIV
Many generalised epidemics have reached their current stage because people in the general population did not know or did not want to believe that they were at risk of HIV infection. Behavioural surveys in the general population as well as in selected population groups can illustrate the extent of continuing risk behaviour. Presented to the respective target audiences through the media or other avenues, the findings of such surveys will increase awareness of the risk of unprotected sex with any partner.
It is also important for people to be aware of trends in behaviour over time. Knowledge that others are adopting safer behaviours can help reinforce behaviour change, especially among young people who respond to peer pressure. Thus, the targeted dissemination of relevant behavioural data to communities can enhance the effectiveness of prevention efforts over time.
Seeking support from non-government sources
Behavioural data can demonstrate success in prevention efforts and highlight continuing needs. Presented appropriately to private firms, development organisations, and international funders, these data can be used to mobilise additional resources for activities that are not being adequately covered in government spending plans.
Improving prevention programmes
As the picture of risk behaviour develops over time, it will indicate which behaviours have changed following prevention programmes and which remain entrenched. This information can and should be used to improve prevention programmes. Prevention packages that appear to be associated with behaviour change in certain subpopulations may be continued and expanded. Evidence of behaviours that remain unchanged despite efforts to promote safer alternatives indicates the need for a new approach - perhaps one that pays closer attention to the social or economic context that determines why people behave in that way.