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Evaluating social outcomes of HIV/AIDS interventions: a critical assessment of contemporary indicator frameworks

Jenevieve Mannell, Flora Cornish, Jill Russell

Abstract


Introduction: Contemporary HIV-related theory and policy emphasize the importance of addressing the social drivers of HIV risk and vulnerability for a long-term response. Consequently, increasing attention is being given to social and structural interventions, and to social outcomes of HIV interventions. Appropriate indicators for social outcomes are needed in order to institutionalize the commitment to addressing social outcomes. This paper critically assesses the current state of social indicators within international HIV/AIDS monitoring and evaluation frameworks.

Methods: We analyzed the indicator frameworks of six international organizations involved in efforts to improve and synchronize the monitoring and evaluation of the HIV/AIDS response. Our analysis classifies the 328 unique indicators according to what they measure and assesses the degree to which they offer comprehensive measurement across three dimensions: domains of the social context, levels of change and organizational capacity.

Results and discussion: The majority of indicators focus on individual-level (clinical and behavioural) interventions and outcomes, neglecting structural interventions, community interventions and social outcomes (e.g. stigma reduction; community capacity building; policy-maker sensitization). The main tool used to address social aspects of HIV/AIDS is the disaggregation of data by social group. This raises three main limitations. Indicator frameworks do not provide comprehensive coverage of the diverse social drivers of the epidemic, particularly neglecting criminalization, stigma, discrimination and gender norms. There is a dearth of indicators for evaluating the social impacts of HIV interventions. Indicators of organizational capacity focus on capacity to effectively deliver and manage clinical services, neglecting capacity to respond appropriately and sustainably to complex social contexts.

Conclusions: Current indicator frameworks cannot adequately assess the social outcomes of HIV interventions. This limits knowledge about social drivers and inhibits the institutionalization of social approaches within the HIV/AIDS response. We conclude that indicator frameworks should expand to offer a more comprehensive range of social indicators for monitoring and evaluation and to include indicators of organizational capacity to tackle social drivers. While such expansion poses challenges for standardization and coordination, we argue that the complexity of interventions producing social outcomes necessitates capacity for flexibility and local tailoring in monitoring and evaluation.

Keywords: social drivers; social outcomes; indicators; monitoring and evaluation; HIV/AIDS; structural interventions.

(Published: 25 August 2014)

Citation: Mannell J et al. Journal of the International AIDS Society 2014, 17:19073

http://www.jiasociety.org/index.php/jias/article/view/19073 | http://dx.doi.org/10.7448/IAS.17.1.19073




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Journal of the International AIDS Society | eISSN 1758-2652 | Editors-in-Chief: Susan Kippax, Kenneth Mayer and Papa Salif Sow 

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