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AIDS Action Weekly Update Special Edition

Report From the HIV Prevention Leadership Summit
Atlanta, Georgia, June 16-19, 2004

June 25, 2004

Grounding Prevention in Science and Linking It to Care

Significance of Data in HIV Prevention


Why was this data collected? Who has surveillance data on HIV? What does this epi-profile do for my community?

For those wishing to get the answers to the questions above and gain a basic understanding of data and how to make use of it, HPLS afforded a number of opportunities to pursue. One workshop, Epi 101: Understanding the Epidemiologic Terms and Concepts for the HIV Prevention and Care Planning Process, presented definitions of two key, though often misunderstood, concepts related to HIV data: epidemiology and HIV/AIDS surveillance.

Epidemiology is the science that studies the distribution, determinants and frequency of disease. Epidemiological data describe the HIV epidemic in various populations within a given planning region. They also profile the socio-demographic, geographic, behavioral and clinical characteristics of the disease.

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HIV/AIDS surveillance is the systematic collection, analysis, interpretation, dissemination and evaluation of population-based information about persons diagnosed with HIV, including those with AIDS. Data derived from such surveillance are crucial to Community Planning Groups (CPGs), who make decisions and set priorities for HIV prevention and care. The choices CPGs make must be based on data, included in epidemiologic profile of their community to help identify gaps and needs in health care services.

A number of presentations in data-related workshops provided insights into the strategies for analyzing the HIV epidemic in a given region. For example, HIV and AIDS surveillance and public health data, including behavioral data, are necessary to get an accurate picture of HIV in a region and to identify target populations. A Community Service Assessment (CSA) together with an epidemiological profile can provide a solid, science-based tool to draw this picture more clearly and inform decisions. A CSA has three components: needs assessment, resource inventory and a gap analysis. An epidemiological profile is a comprehensive report that includes the scope of the epidemic in a given area (i.e., HIV and AIDS cases, cases by race, gender and ethnicity), indicators of risk for HIV infection in the population of that area, and HIV and AIDS trends in that area.

The state of Georgia, for example, conducted a comprehensive CSA in partnership with the Department of Human Resources and the CPG. The extensive research had two phases. Phase one comprised key-informant interviews, focus groups with three different populations (heterosexuals, substance abuse users and men who have sex with men), and secondary data on existing interventions from five government agencies (CDC, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Office of Minority Health, HRSA and Department of Housing and Urban Development). The second phase included provider surveys (700 respondents) and consumer surveys (330 respondents). While the analysis of this assessment is not yet complete, one key finding has been identified: there is a need for capacity building. As active members of the national prevention community, both the Georgia Health Department and the CPB eagerly await the final analysis.

For more information on national HIV/AIDS surveillance reports, go to www.cdc.gov/hiv/stats/hasrlink.htm and for integrated guidelines for developing epidemiologic profiles, go to: www.cdc.gov/hiv/pubs/guidelines.htm and http://hab.hrsa.gov.


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This article was provided by AIDS Action Council. It is a part of the publication AIDS Action Weekly Update.
 

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