The impact of HIV and AIDS research: a case study from Swaziland
Background: Swaziland is experiencing the world’s worst HIV and AIDS epidemic. Prevalence rose from four percent of antenatal clinic attendees in 1992 to 42.6 percent in 2004. The Report ‘Reviewing ‘Emergencies’ for Swaziland: Shifting the Paradigm in a New Era’ published in 2007 bought together social and economic indicators. It built a picture of the epidemic as a humanitarian emergency, requiring urgent action from international organisations, donors, and governments. Following a targeted communications effort, the report was believed to have raised the profile of the issue and Swaziland – a success story for HIV and AIDS research.
Methods: Keen to understand how, where and why the report had an impact, Health Economics and HIV/AIDS Research Division commissioned an assessment to track and evaluate the influence of the research. This tapped into literature on the significance of understanding the research-to-policy interface. This paper outlines the report and its impact. It explores key findings from the assessment and suggests lessons for future research projects.
Results: The paper demonstrates that, although complex, and not without methodological issues, impact assessment of research can be of real value to researchers in understanding the research-to-policy interface.
Conclusion: Only by gaining insight into this process can researchers move forward in delivering effective research.