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Use of data from HIV counselling and testing services for HIV surveillance in Africa.

Mwaluko G, Wringe A, Todd J, Glynn JR, Crampin AC, Jaffar S, Kalluvya S and Zaba B.       

Lancet. 2007 Feb 17;369(9561):612-3.         (viewpoint)

Considering the problems inherent in both obtaining, and above all interpreting, surveillance data collected in the context of VCT, prudence should be exercised before recommending extensions to routine data collection by providers of HIV counselling and testing services. 
What is needed in many countries is the implementation of well-designed, but simple data collection tools, to ensure that useful, meaningful data are collected, and that duplication is eliminated.  One-off research studies may experiment with more detailed data collection protocols, but there should not be a blanket expectation that VCT centres provide surveillance data other than those that can be easily and ethically acquired.  In order to maximise the utility of data that are already collected, we need to ensure that they are recorded in ways that make them useful for monitoring and evaluation purposes, and devise imaginative methods (carbon copy duplicates, tear off slips, matching numerical identifiers) to minimise the extra effort needed from VCT staff in recording the data, and reduce opportunities for introducing errors in transcribing them to electronic formats.
The experience gained from implementing these methods should be documented, disseminated and ultimately developed into recommendations for implementing data collection tools as VCT sites continue to expand in sub-Saharan Africa and beyond


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