New Frontiers in HIV Prevention Sciences

The session "New Frontiers
in HIV Prevention Sciences" offered a riveting array of models
and lessons learned from the ever-evolving field of research on HIV
prevention technologies and interventions. 

Julia Kim, from the School
of Public Health at the University of Witwatersrand, discussed HIV prevention
oriented towards structural determinants, such as gender-based violence,
and how to measure an intervention’s impact. Inherent in this model
is a shift away from the individual level to that of the population. 
Her research focused on women who received training in gender inequalities
and HIV while also participating in a microfinance program. This allowed
for prolonged and consistent contact with the research group, more so
than in a clinical setting. The research demonstrated that change in
a factor such as gender-based violence, which is often deemed to be
"too culturally entrenched and resistant to change," is not only
possible but measurable.

The widespread impact of such
interventions occurs through scale-up to a broader base of people. Ashokh
Alexander, Director of Avahan India AIDS Initiative, added how the integration
of business models aided in crafting research to scale from the outset,
and she emphasized the importance of designing, managing, and evaluating
to scale. Building research into program implementation allows for service
users to be data gatherers as well, which panelist Jeffrey O’Malley
of United Nations Development Programme echoed, and allows for more
immediate assessment of program impact to identify areas in need of

Tom Coates, Associate Director
of the UCLA AIDS Institute, cautioned that not all forms of information
are equally useful, and that we can neither rely exclusively on randomized
controlled testing nor on self-reported data to measure the impact of
prevention technologies and interventions. 

Such HIV research has long
posed unique challenges since the data is often difficult to quantify.
The panelists briefly reviewed the evolution in the framing and conceptualization
of that research which has led to better planning and design of interventions.

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