As national and global attention focuses on controlling — and someday ending — the HIV epidemic, human rights-based indicators are critical to assessing progress, suggests new research led by Dr. Joseph Amon, director of global health and clinical professor in the department of community health and prevention at Drexel University Dornsife School of Public Health. He and his team, which included the head of the UNAIDS office in the Central African Republic and the director of the Global Network of People Living with HIV, among others, found that past and current methods of assessing the epidemic have impeded successful policy making and planning in many communities around the world.
To begin with, Dr. Amon points out, “understanding trends in relation to an epidemic are fundamental to epidemiology. Are things getting better or worse? What country is seeing the fastest rise in HIV infections and what countries are seeing dramatic drops?” He adds, “In our paper, for example, we talk about ‘epidemic transition’ as an alternative to ‘epidemic control’ to avoid the implication of a top-down approach and to highlight the understanding that progress toward the end of the HIV epidemic is not going to happen in a simple, linear fashion.”
In their study, “Defining rights-based indicators of HIV epidemic transition,” published in PLOS Medicine, Dr. Amon and his research team found:
The researchers concluded that although the world is ready to celebrate an “end of AIDS.” It is important to recall that past efforts to define epidemic control may have done more harm than good, undermining realistic planning and policy making. To combat this, a broader, rights-based indicator framework should be at the center of what epidemic transition means. This rights-based indicator frame- work should both track the factors driving the HIV epidemic and measure our progress from a highly-stigmatized epidemic that generates discrimination and human rights abuses to a rational, evidence-informed, and rights-based response that respects the dignity and rights of those living with and vulnerable to HIV.