In Philadelphia, the Behavioral and Social Science Core of the University of Pennsylvania Center for AIDS Research (UPENN CFAR) is working collaboratively with the AIDS Activities Coordinating Office (AACO) of the Philadelphia Department of Public Health to strengthen AACO's capacity to employ Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology – combining geographic, behavioral, and biological data – to provide policy-relevant information regarding HIV/AIDS in the City of Philadelphia.
This project is a supplement to the Enhanced Comprehensive HIV Prevention Planning and Implementation for Metropolitan Statistical Areas Most Affected by HIV/AIDS (ECHPP) initiative for the 12 municipalities with the highest number of people living with AIDS in the United States, funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention (DHAP).
This supplemental project was developed to allow the Penn CFAR to help develop the capacity within the AIDS Activities Coordinating Office (AACO) of the Philadelphia Department of Public Health in the use of geographic data and cartographic methods, and how to combine those with other data sets to provide policy relevant information regarding HIV/AIDS in the City. This type of technical assistance was meant to further develop AACO's expertise in the use of the most current software and strategies required to link behavioral data, biological data, and geographic data.
HIV and AIDS case rates in Philadelphia are quite variable across ZIP codes and neighborhoods. This highlights the need to use social network, neighborhood, and other approaches utilizing an ecological approach to prevention and treatment. Since the Health Department is charged with regularly addressing important issues related to the distribution and accessibility of services around Philadelphia, this type of information is critical.
Clearly, geographic characteristics of the epidemic (the neighborhoods most severely impacted and the location of service delivery and providers) are very important aspects of service accessibility and acceptability. While many assume that having services located close to the client's residence is desirable, accessibility and acceptability must also be considered in light of other forces such as stigma, perceived quality of services, access to transportation, and cost of transportation. Additionally, integration of geospatial data with other secondary data sources can provide useful and heretofore unavailable information for program planning and resource distribution purposes.
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