Background: Concerted efforts and substantial financial resources have gone toward strengthening national monitoring and evaluation (M&E) systems for HIV programs. This article explores whether those investments have made a difference in terms of data availability, quality and use for assessing whether national programs are on track to achieve the 2015 Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of halting and reversing the HIV epidemic.
Methods: Descriptive analyses, including trends, of the National Composite Policy Index data and M&E expenditures were conducted. Global Fund funding continuation assessments were reviewed for concerns related to M&E. Availability of population-based survey data was assessed.
Results: There has been a marked increase in the number of countries where the prerequisites for a national HIV M&E system are in place and in human resources devoted to M&E at the national level. However, crucial gaps remain in M&E capacity, available M&E data, and data quality assurance. The extent to which data are used for program improvement is difficult to ascertain. There is a potential threat to sustaining the current momentum in M&E as governments have not committed long-term funding and current M&E-related expenditures are below the minimum needed to make M&E systems fully functional.
Conclusions: There is evidence of rapid scale-up of basic HIV M&E systems, but if M&E is to fulfil its role in guiding optimal use of resources, ensuring effective HIV programs and providing evidence of progress toward the Millennium Development Goal of halting and reversing the HIV epidemic, essential data gaps will need to be filled urgently and those data will need to be used to guide decision making.