Background: Estimation of the size of populations at risk of HIV is a key activity in the surveillance of the HIV epidemic. The existing framework for considering future research needs may provide decision-makers with a basis for a fair process of deciding on the methods of the estimation of the size of key populations at risk of HIV. This study explores the extent to which stakeholders involved with population size estimation agree with this framework, and thus, the study updates the framework.
Methods: We conducted 16 in-depth interviews with key informants from city and provincial governments, NGOs, research institutes, and the community of people at risk of HIV. Transcripts were analyzed and reviewed for significant statements pertaining to criteria. Variations and agreement around criteria were analyzed, and emerging criteria were validated against the existing framework.
Results: Eleven themes emerged which are relevant to the estimation of the size of populations at risk of HIV in Viet Nam. Findings on missing criteria, inclusive participation, community perspectives and conflicting weight and direction of criteria provide insights for an improved framework for the prioritization of population size estimation methods.
Conclusions: The findings suggest that the exclusion of community members from decision-making on population size estimation methods in Viet Nam may affect the validity, use, and efficiency of the evidence generated. However, a wider group of decision-makers, including community members among others, may introduce diverse definitions, weight and direction of criteria. Although findings here may not apply to every country with a transitioning economy or to every emerging epidemic, the principles of fair decision-making, value of community participation in decision-making and the expected challenges faced, merit consideration in every situation.
Keywords: Data; Global Health; HIV; Population size estimation; Surveillance; Vietnam.