Wednesday 16 October 2019

M15: Data Use and Report Writing in HIV Surveillance

One of the core principles of HIV surveillance is that behavioural and biological data are interpreted together to give a coherent picture of the epidemic. Data cannot be used well unless they are of high quality. Public health professionals, including surveillance system managers and HIV/AIDS programme staff are therefore interested in ensuring that the data surveillance systems generate are of high quality.

Data should be collected with an idea of how they will be used in planning and evaluating HIV programmes or in advocacy. Surveillance data help us to understand the size and characteristics of the HIV epidemic as well as the opportunities to set up evidence-based HIV interventions. One of the primary areas of data use is to  estimate the number and distribution of those at higher risk as it enables to allocate effectively prevention resources and plan such needs at the national scale. Understanding the sources of new infections enables programmes to refocus efforts to those geographic areas and groups at risk.

The guidelines of the Council for International Organizations of Medical Sciences strongly emphasize that there is an ethical responsibility to use data by stating “it is not sufficient simply to determine that a disease is prevalent in the population and that new or further research is needed. The ethical requirement of ‘responsiveness’ can be fulfilled only if successful interventions or other kinds of benefits are made available to the population.”

Learning objectives

This course aims to present the three major areas of data use in HIV surveillance:

  • (I) for programme planning
  • (II) for programme monitoring and (III) for evaluation and advocacy

The course will outline the methods and principles of collecting high quality HIV surveillance data, as it is a prerequisite for effective data use. Lectures will adress the measurement instruments i.e. questionnaires and laboratory tests used in surveillance as they are tools in obtaining surveillance indicators and help us to understand the gaps in interventions. Important topics will include sources of error in surveillance, such as random error and systematic error (bias) and how they influence data interpretation.

Lectures on data use will be structured to explain different types of data use, such as for planning various prevention interventions, care and treatment, planning the size of interventions and targeting interventions to populations at risk. Exercises based on real surveillance data and case examples will be used to illustrate the challenges in data interpretation, and the advantages and disadvantages of different data sources.

During lectures on data presentation, participants will learn how to present data to different audiences such as programme managers, policy makers, communities and media. An important part of the course will focus on learning how to write-up a surveillance report.

Key topics

  • Obtaining useful and high-quality data
  • Examining data to determine the distribution of infection
  • Principles of effective data use
  • Using surveillance to evaluate effectiveness of programmatic response and programme coverage
  • Most common weaknesses in HIV surveillance data
  • Sources of bias in HIV surveys
  • Mechanisms for an efficient system for using data
  • Steps in producing national HIV report
  • Presentation of data for different audiences
  • Developing interesting and persuasive presentations
  • Bringing together programme planning and advocacy
  • Presenting data to specific user groups
  • ​Writing up of press releases

Teaching Methods

The course consists of lectures, exercises and presentations. The course programme will consist of a number of exercises using real examples of surveillance data, with the aim to interpret the data and suggest data use for planning of interventions.

The group work will consist of a development of a report/ presentation based on results of one surveillance survey.

Target Audience

HIV programme managers, surveillance officers, public health professionals.


The course takes place in five days.


  • Institute for Global Health, University of California, San Francisco,
  • WHO

Download the Programme:

Programme - Data Use and Report Writing in HIV Surveillance.doc

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