Producing HIV estimates: From global advocacy to country planning and impact measurement

Mary Mahy, Tim Brown, John Stover, Neff Walker, Karen Stanecki, Wilford Kirungi, Txema Garcia-Calleja, Peter D. Ghys

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The development of global HIV estimates has been critical for understanding, advocating for and funding the HIV response. The process of generating HIV estimates has been cited as the gold standard for public health estimates. Objective: This paper provides important lessons from an international scientific collaboration and provides a useful model for those producing public health estimates in other fields. Design: Through the compilation and review of published journal articles, United Nations reports, other documents and personal experience we compiled historical information about the estimates and identified potential lessons for other public health estimation efforts. Results: Through the development of core partnerships with country teams, implementers, demographers, mathematicians, epidemiologists and international organizations, UNAIDS has led a process to develop the capacity of country teams to produce internationally comparable HIV estimates. The guidance provided by these experts has led to refinements in the estimated numbers of people living with HIV, new HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths over the past 20 years. A number of important updates to the methods since 1997 resulted in fluctuations in the estimated levels, trends and impact of HIV. The largest correction occurred between the 2005 and 2007 rounds with the additions of household survey data into the models. In 2001 the UNAIDS models at that time estimated there were 40 million people living with HIV. In 2016, improved models estimate there were 30 million (27.6-32.7 million) people living with HIV in 2001. Conclusions: Country ownership of the estimation tools has allowed for additional uses of the results than had the results been produced by researchers or a team in Geneva. Guidance from a reference group and input from country teams have led to critical improvements in the models over time. Those changes have improved countries' and stakeholders' understanding of the HIV epidemic.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1291169
JournalGlobal health action
StatePublished - 2017


  • Estimation
  • HIV
  • Models
  • Strategic information

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


Dive into the research topics of 'Producing HIV estimates: From global advocacy to country planning and impact measurement'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this