2.2 Behavioural data informs effective programme design and direction
A country monitoring the HIV epidemic is doing so because it
wants to slow the spread of the virus through effective prevention programmes.
Effective prevention is prevention that enables people to adopt safer behaviours
and protect themselves from the risk behaviour of their partners. But effective
prevention requires more than just knowing who is at risk. It also requires
understanding why they engage in risk behaviour, motivating them to reduce their
risk, developing their prevention knowledge and skills, improving their access
to the means of prevention in ways that are appropriate and accessible to them,
and providing a supportive social and policy environment for behaviour change.
These requirements create a strong need for qualitative data to illuminate and
clarify the determinants of risk in specific subpopulations and situations.
Unless the context and forms of risk behaviour are well understood in each
specific vulnerable subpopulation or risk situation, it is not possible to
provide and effectively support relevant safe alternative behaviours. Thus,
behavioural research data can help communities and programme planners design
initiatives carefully focused on breaking the links in the chain of transmission
in a particular country, region, or group.
In addition, behavioural research data can quantitatively
indicate who is most at risk of contracting or passing on HIV infection, and
why. Such data can document levels of risk in specific communities that may be
particularly vulnerable to rapid HIV spread or identify characteristics of
individuals who may have higher risk, allowing prevention efforts to be
prioritised and directed so as to have the greatest