Indicator 4.1: "Knowledge of HIV prevention methods - Composite of 2 components (prompted)"


The percent of respondents who, in response to a prompted question, say that people can protect themselves from contracting HIV by using condoms or having sex only with one faithful, uninfected partner.

Measurement Tools

UNAIDS general population survey; DHS AIDS module; FHI BSS (adult); FHI BSS; MICS (UNICEF).

What It Measures

Most AIDS programmes targeting the general population promote mutual monogamy and condom use as the primary ways of avoiding HIV infection among the sexually active men and women who make up the majority of all adults in virtually every population. This indicator measures the extent to which those messages have reached the general population or the specific sub-population surveyed.

How to Measure It

The indicator is derived from correct answers given for both primary sexual prevention methods for sexually active adults, following prompted questions in a survey. Someone only identifying one of the two ways is not counted in the numerator of the indicator. All respondents surveyed are included in the denominator, regardless of whether they have ever heard of AIDS or not. The indicator components should also be reported separately to show changes in specific knowledge areas.

Strengths and Limitations

Data for this indicator are easy to collect in a population survey. In most countries the score on this indicator will be high, but disaggregation of the indicator by individual questions, residence, gender or age group may provide useful pointers to gaps in information flows.

Limitations of the use of prompted data were discussed in the introduction to this section. While the primary indicator should be constructed using prompted data, a comparison between prompted and non-prompted data where possible may yield interesting information. For instance, both the revised UNAIDS general population survey and the DHS AIDS module ask, "What ways can people protect themselves from getting HIV?" before asking specific "prompted" questions. To be of additional use to programme managers, this indicator should always be used in conjunction with Knowledge Indicator 2.

Previous knowledge indicators have included abstinence as a "correct" method of prevention used in this indicator. Abstinence is an extremely important prevention option for young people. However research in many settings shows that it is rarely used as a primary HIV prevention method among adults who are already sexually active. In addition, people who know that HIV is sexually transmitted are highly likely to know that not having sex can reduce the risk of transmission. Negative responses on this item are more likely to result from people believing that abstinence is not feasible than from their believing that abstinence does not provide effective protection. In surveys among young people, however, questions about abstinence continue to be important. Programmes focusing on delaying age at first sex among young people may choose to add a knowledge indicator that includes correct responses to a question about abstinence as a prevention method in the numerator.