Background: Capacity building of the national HIV strategic information system is a core component of the response to the HIV epidemic as it enables understanding of the evolving nature of the epidemic, which is critical for program planning and identification of the gaps and deficiencies in HIV programs.
Objective: The study aims to describe the results of the assessment of the needs for further development of capacities in HIV strategic information systems in the non-European Union (EU) countries in the World Health Organization European Region (EUR).
Methods: Self-administered questionnaires were distributed to national AIDS programs. The first questionnaire was sent to all countries (N=18) to find out, among other issues, the priority level for strengthening a range of HIV surveillance areas and their key gaps and weaknesses. The second questionnaire was sent to 15 countries to more specifically determine capacities for the analysis of the HIV care cascade.
Results: Responses to the first questionnaire were received from 10 countries, whereas 13 countries responded to the second questionnaire. Areas that were most frequently marked as being of high to moderate priority for strengthening were national electronic patient monitoring systems, evaluation of HIV interventions and impact analysis, implementation science, and data analysis. Key weaknesseses were lack of electronic reporting of HIV cases, problems with timeliness and completeness of reporting in HIV cases, under-estimates of the reported number of HIV-related deaths, and limited CD4 count testing at the time of HIV diagnosis. Migrant populations, internally displaced persons, and refugees were most commonly mentioned as groups not covered by surveillance, followed by clients of sex workers and men who have sex with men. The majority of countries reported that they were able to provide the number of people diagnosed with HIV who know their HIV status, which is important for the analysis of cross-sectional and longitudinal HIV care cascades. Ability to report on some of the key impact indicators of HIV programs-viral load suppression and mortality-should be considerably strengthened.
Conclusions: The assessment found a substantial need to invest in surveillance capacities, which is a cornerstone in the development of an evidence-informed response to HIV epidemics.
Keywords: Europe; HIV; aptitude; evaluation; surveillance.
©Ivana Bozicevic, Senad Handanagic, Jurja Ivana Cakalo, Annemarie Rinder Stengaard, George Rutherford. Originally published in JMIR Public Health and Surveillance (http://publichealth.jmir.org), 23.06.2017.