Time for a data revolution to guide the HIV response

James Hargreaves London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, 2018; Read the original article online

James Hargreaves' article, published by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine on World AIDS Day, calls for a revitalisation of HIV measurement and surveillance efforts, so that countries know where to focus their efforts in coming years.

Traditional approaches to tracking the epidemic are no longer fit for purpose."

Hargreaves argues that the methods used for collecting data and determining trends in HIV infection rates are out-dated. National door-to-door surveys, whilst a key resource, are expensive and hard to conduct. While estimates of how many people are living with HIV and know their status are determined through data collection in health facilities, these estimates are often innacurate in settings where services are accessed multiple times or in different locations. 

Data needs have changed to drive progress toward lowering the burden of HIV infections and deaths."

The cornerstone of the response should be identifying and responding to new infections, yet rates of new infection are rarely directly measured. To remedy that Hargreaves calls for:

  • More data about specific places and more timely data to guide geographical and sub-population targeting.
  • Sustainable, country-led, action oriented HIV surveillance platforms in the future that serve local decision-making, uphold human rights and support global reporting and modelling needs.

The article advocates a three-pronged response to improve the lives of those living with HIV and to reduce the burden of infection among those at risk:

  1. Improve understanding of the continuum of care among all people living with HIV through better use of individual-level, de-duplicated health records
  2. Improve understanding of HIV incidence, prevalence, risk and linkage to care through better use of data collected through HIV testing platforms
  3. Improve understanding of the locations, populations and individuals at greatest risk for HIV infection through better community-based assessments.

These issues are being addressed by the MeSH consortium who held an international scientific symposium in December 2017 on the topic ' building confidence in the collection and use of quality HIV data'. Learn more about their work here and follow MeSH on twitter @MeSHConsortium.

Filter by