|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.)|
|4. What is needed to understand and track behaviour?|
There are many ways of collecting data on behaviour. This section describes the strengths and limitations of the methods most likely to be used in meeting the planning and evaluation needs of national programmes. Some of these methods may already be in use in a given country. Most countries will choose a mix of behavioural data collection methods, depending upon the particular stage of the epidemic, the response so far, and the political and social environment of the country.
Whatever methods are chosen, it is important that they be designed with the needs of the country in mind. Unless behavioural data are credible and relevant to action that can be taken to prevent the further spread of HIV, they will be of little practical use. This means that the behavioural data collected must provide a firm understanding of the behavioural patterns and distribution of risk in the population, and the systems established to monitor behavioural risk must feed into the design, direction, and evaluation of prevention activities.
In deciding their country's data collection needs, programme managers should bear in mind that some populations and vulnerabilities are likely to strike more of a chord with policymakers and the general public than others. Often political support for prevention activities among more socially marginalised, but highly vulnerable, subpopulations is weak. Behavioural studies can help build support for such essential activities by demonstrating that risk behaviour and vulnerability in the general population or in politically important groups are closely related to risk in these other vulnerable populations. Sometimes such data can provide the critical additional leverage needed to encourage and strengthen support for urgently required prevention activities in vulnerable subpopulations.