Background: Used in conjunction with biological surveillance, behavioural surveillance provides data allowing for a more precise definition of HIV/STI prevention strategies. In 2008, mapping of behavioural surveillance in EU/EFTA countries was performed on behalf of the European Centre for Disease prevention and Control.
Method: Nine questionnaires were sent to all 31 member States and EEE/EFTA countries requesting data on the overall behavioural and second generation surveillance system and on surveillance in the general population, youth, men having sex with men (MSM), injecting drug users (IDU), sex workers (SW), migrants, people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA), and sexually transmitted infection (STI) clinics patients. Requested data included information on system organisation (e.g. sustainability, funding, institutionalisation), topics covered in surveys and main indicators.
Results: Twenty-eight of the 31 countries contacted supplied data. Sixteen countries reported an established behavioural surveillance system, and 13 a second generation surveillance system (combination of biological surveillance of HIV/AIDS and STI with behavioural surveillance). There were wide differences as regards the year of survey initiation, number of populations surveyed, data collection methods used, organisation of surveillance and coordination with biological surveillance. The populations most regularly surveyed are the general population, youth, MSM and IDU. SW, patients of STI clinics and PLWHA are surveyed less regularly and in only a small number of countries, and few countries have undertaken behavioural surveys among migrant or ethnic minorities populations. In many cases, the identification of populations with risk behaviour and the selection of populations to be included in a BS system have not been formally conducted, or are incomplete. Topics most frequently covered are similar across countries, although many different indicators are used. In most countries, sustainability of surveillance systems is not assured.
Conclusion: Although many European countries have established behavioural surveillance systems, there is little harmonisation as regards the methods and indicators adopted. The main challenge now faced is to build and maintain organised and functional behavioural and second generation surveillance systems across Europe, to increase collaboration, to promote robust, sustainable and cost-effective data collection methods, and to harmonise indicators.