Feature story

HIV: Know your epidemic, understand the politics

07 January 2009

Journal cover
Know your epidemic, understand the politics

For every two people accessing HIV treatment, another five are newly infected with the virus. Given the gap, there is broad agreement among scientific, government and civil society communities on the need to intensify HIV prevention efforts.

UNAIDS promotes HIV prevention responses that are tailored to local contexts and are evidence-informed through epidemiological analysis, behavioural data and an understanding of social and gender norms.

According to an editorial published last year in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, “knowing your epidemic” is in itself not enough to act upon it. The December 2008 article, co-authored by Michel Sidibé, UNAIDS, Kent Buse, UNAIDS and Clare Dickinson, HLSP Institute, argued that the failure to appreciate the political dimensions of HIV can frustrate efforts to promote and implement evidence-informed policy.

The authors advocate that analysis identifying the political obstacles and opportunities to evidence-informed policy should constitute a core feature of every national HIV response.

An analysis of 28 peer-reviewed articles reporting on empirical studies of policy change in low and middle income countries was published by the HLSP Institute in October 2008. The findings aimed to help advocates and policy-makers take more strategic decisions about future policies and their implementation.