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Mathematical modelling informs HIV prevention policy in China

April 27, 2016

IDRC-funded research is using mathematical modelling to influence local and national policies in China to reduce HIV transmission.

Treatment as prevention

Earlier research conducted under Modelling and controlling infectious diseases project showed that providing antiretroviral therapy (ART) to HIV-positive individuals can prevent future transmission. These findings underscored its importance as a public health strategy.

Researchers led by research chairs Yiming Shao from the National Center for AIDS/STO Control & Prevention, China, and Jianhong Wu from Canada's York University, used their modelling results to influence the Ministry of Health and the Centre for Disease Control in China to accelerate and scale up treatment as prevention measures to reduce HIV transmission. 

The project is one of eight in the International Research Chairs Initiative, a joint collaboration between IDRC and the Canada Research Chairs program.

Local social enterprises provide job creation and treatment

In 2013, the project secured provincial and national government funding and support for implementing various interventions. In Liangshan and other counties of Sichuan province, for example, the government is backing social enterprises to assist HIV prevention efforts. Through creating employment for HIV-positive individuals, social enterprises seek to reduce the migration of high risk and HIV-positive individuals by ensuring they can continue to provide for their families while also receiving ART and drug rehabilitation treatment.

Complementing the work of social enterprises, the government of Sichuan province has scaled up capacity for HIV screening, diagnostics, and treatment at county and township hospitals. And in the least developed regions like Liangshan, provincial and national programs are now combining AIDS control with poverty relief.

Photo: Yiming Shao - A renovated health clinic in Butuo that provides diagnostic and treatment services for HIV/AIDs patients.

Scientific research informs policy scale-up

The mathematical modelling and findings generated by this research have helped public health officials improve their evidence-based decision-making. One important factor in the decision-making is whether HIV infection rates are increasing or declining. The team responded to this need and developed models to better predict incident rates. The results pointed to higher annual HIV incidence than national estimates and led China’s Ministry of Health to re-evaluate their 2013 estimates. Researchers are also using modelling tools for evaluation and are working with the Guangxi provincial government to evaluate the results of Guangxi’s Intensified AIDS Control Plan (2010-2014).

The above examples illustrate the important ways scientific research can inform policy decisions at both the local and national levels.

This project is one of eight projects in the International Research Chairs Initiative, a joint collaboration between IDRC and the Canada Research Chairs program.