Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Developing a matrix to identify and prioritise research recommendations in HIV Prevention

Sydney Anstee1*, Alison Price1, Amanda Young3, Katharine Barnard1, Bob Coates4, Simon Fraser4 and Rebecca Moran2

Author Affiliations

1 National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), Evaluation, Trials and Studies Coordinating Centre (NETSCC), Health Technology Assessment (HTA), University of Southampton, Southampton, SO16 7NS, UK

2 National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), Evaluation, Trials and Studies Coordinating Centre (NETSCC), Public Health Programme, University of Southampton, Southampton, SO16 7NS, UK

3 University of Southampton's Wessex Institute, Alpha House, University of Southampton Science Park, Southampton SO16 7NS, UK

4 Public Health, Trust Headquarters, Southampton City PCT, Oakley Road, Southampton SO16 4GX, UK

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BMC Public Health 2011, 11:381  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-381

Published: 24 May 2011



HIV prevention continues to be problematic in the UK, as it does globally. The UK Department of Health has a strategic direction with greater focus on prevention as part of its World Class Commissioning Programme. There is a need for targeted evidence-based prevention initiatives. This is an exploratory study to develop an evidence mapping tool in the form of a matrix: this will be used to identify important gaps in contemporary HIV prevention evidence relevant to the UK. It has the potential to aid prioritisation in future research.


Categories for prevention and risk groups were developed for HIV prevention in consultation with external experts. These were used as axes on a matrix tool to map evidence. Systematic searches for publications on HIV prevention were undertaken using electronic databases for primary and secondary research undertaken mainly in UK, USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, 2006-9. Each publication was screened for inclusion then coded. The risk groups and prevention areas in each paper were counted: several publications addressed multiple risk groups. The counts were exported to the matrix and clearly illustrate the concentrations and gaps of literature in HIV prevention.


716 systematic reviews, randomised control trials and other primary research met the inclusion criteria for HIV prevention. The matrix identified several under researched areas in HIV prevention.


This is the first categorisation system for HIV prevention and the matrix is a novel tool for evidence mapping. Some important yet under-researched areas have been identified in HIV prevention evidence: identifying the undiagnosed population; international adaptation; education; intervention combinations; transgender; sex-workers; heterosexuals and older age groups.

Other research recommendations: develop the classification system further and investigate transferability of the matrix to other prevention areas; evidence syntheses may be appropriate in areas dense with research; have studies with positive findings been translated to practice?

The authors of this study invite research suggestions relating to the evidence gaps identified within remits of Public Health or any appropriate NETSCC programme.

Follow the 'Suggest Research' links from: webcite. Enter - HIVProject - in optional ID for HTA or in first information box for other programmes.