British Medical Journal (BMJ) Global Health   |  September 29, 2020

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Law and policy differences help explain why, as HIV-related science has advanced swiftly, some countries have realised remarkable progress on AIDS while others see expanding epidemics. We describe the structure and findings of a new dataset and research platform, the HIV Policy Lab, which fills an important knowledge gap by measuring the HIV-related policy environment across 33 indicators and 194 countries over time, with online access and visualisation. Cross-national indicators can be critical tools in international governance—building social power to monitor state behaviour with the potential to change policy and improve domestic accountability. This new and evolving effort collects data about policy through review of legal documents, official government reports and systematic review of secondary sources. Alignment between national policy environments and global norms is demonstrated through comparison with international public health guidance and agreements. We demonstrate substantial variation in the content of law and policies between countries, regions and policy areas. Given progress in basic and implementation science, it would be tempting to believe most countries have adopted policies aligned with global norms, with a few outliers. Data show this is not the case. Globally, alignment is higher on clinical and treatment policies than on prevention, testing and structural policies. Policy-makers, researchers, civil society, finance agencies and others can use these data to better understand the policy environment within and across countries and support reform. Longitudinal analysis enables evaluation of the impact of laws and policies on HIV outcomes and research about the political drivers of policy choice.

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