Feature story

UNAIDS launches inequalities visualization tool

20 May 2024

Tackling inequalities is how the world will end AIDS, so it is vital to know what type of inequalities exist in each country and how are they affecting the national AIDS responses. That is what a new UNAIDS inequalities visualization tool is set out to measure.

The new tool will allow countries, development partners, civil society, academia, and advocates to see and measure the effects that different dimensions of inequalities have on the HIV response.

“One of the best ways to translate complex data is to show it visually. This tool allows the user to summarize critical inequalities in a snapshot,” said Mary Mahy, Director, Data for Impact Practice at UNAIDS.

Integrated in the UNAIDS AIDSinfo database, which is a repository of all HIV data globally, the new inequality platform brings together data from household surveys like Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) and Population-Based HIV Impact Assessment (PHIA), plus surveys among key populations and UNAIDS epidemiologicalestimates. The tool measures inequalities by characteristics such as age, gender, wealth, education, geographic location and residence, and allows users to see the combined effects of up to three dimensions of inequality.

Some of the deepest, thorniest pandemic-driving inequalities continue to obstruct progress in the HIV response. Inequalities driving the AIDS pandemic are not inevitable. Policies can overcome them.

For example, in sub-Saharan Africa, adolescent girls and young women are 3 times as likely to acquire HIV as adolescent boys and young men.  To help overcome this inequality, countries need to offer prevention services that are adolescent-friendly and targeted at young women at highest risk of HIV acquisition.

Similarly, the new tool shows how access to services differs for residents of urban and rural areas, and how among key populations, younger people usually have lower access to HIV services that their older peers. In Zambia, for example, HIV treatment coverage among rural residents was 9% lower than residents of urban areas. In Malaysia, access to HIV testing among people who inject drugs who were younger than 25 years old was 50% lower than their older peers, and in Thailand, HIV prevalence among male sex workers has been consistently several times higher than female sex workers.

By using the evidence provided by this new tool, countries will be able to identify the inequalities affecting their epidemic and response and make the necessary changes in their policies and programmes to address them. UNAIDS will be updating the data in this tool on an annual basis, allowing countries to measure the effect of their policies and programmes as data become available.

Training videos have been developed to help users learn how to interact with the tool and make the best use of the data available. 

Training videos