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Goal 6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
Target 6.A. Have halted by 2015 and begun to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS


This indicator is the percentage of the population aged 15–24 that has a comprehensive correct knowledge of Human immunodeficiency virus/Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS).

Comprehensive correct knowledge of HIV/AIDS is correctly identifying the two major ways of preventing the sexual transmission of HIV (using condoms and limiting sex to one faithful, uninfected partner), knowing that a healthy-looking person can transmit HIV and rejecting the two most common local misconceptions about HIV transmission.

Local misconceptions about HIV transmission vary from country to country. Examples of common misconceptions include: a person can get HIV from a mosquito bite, by sharing food with someone who is infected, by hugging or shaking hands with an infected person or through supernatural means.

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a virus that weakens the immune system, ultimately leading to Acquired Immuno Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). HIV destroys the body’s ability to fight off infection and disease, which can ultimately lead to death. Without treatment, median survival from the time of infection is about 10.5 years for males and 11.5 years for females. Access to treatment is uneven, and no vaccine is currently available.

Method of computation
This indicator is calculated by dividing the number of persons aged 15–24 years who have a comprehensive correct knowledge of HIV/AIDS by the total number of persons aged 15–24 and multiplying by 100.

A person is considered as having a comprehensive correct knowledge of HIV/AIDS if he or she gave the correct answers to all of the following five questions:
  1. Can the risk of HIV transmission be reduced by having sex with only one uninfected partner who has no other partners?
  2. Can a person reduce the risk of getting HIV by using a condom every time he or she has sex?
  3. Can a healthy-looking person have HIV?
  4. Can a person get HIV from mosquito bites?
  5. Can a person get HIV by sharing food with someone who is infected?

The first three questions are applicable to every country and should not be altered. Questions 4 and 5 ask about local misconceptions and may be adapted depending on what the most common misconceptions are in the specific country. Examples include: “Can a person get HIV by hugging or shaking hands with a person who is infected?” and “Can a person get HIV through supernatural means?”

Young persons who have never heard of HIV and AIDS should be excluded from the numerator but included in the denominator. A person answering, “Don’t know”, should not be considered as having a comprehensive correct knowledge of HIV/AIDS.


This indicator reflects the success of national information, education and communication programmes and other efforts in promoting knowledge of valid HIV prevention methods, and in reducing misconceptions about the disease and ultimately decreasing the risk of transmission.

The belief that a healthy-looking person cannot be infected with HIV is a common misconception that can result in unprotected sexual intercourse with infected partners. Correcting false beliefs of possible modes of HIV transmission is as important as providing correct information on true modes of transmission. For example, the belief that HIV is transmitted through mosquito bites can weaken the motivation to adopt safer sexual behaviour, while the belief that HIV can be transmitted through sharing food reinforces the stigma faced by people living with AIDS.

This indicator is particularly useful in countries where knowledge about HIV and AIDS is poor because it allows for easy measurement of incremental improvements over time. However, it is also important in other countries because it can be used to ensure that pre-existing high levels of knowledge are maintained.


Data on knowledge and misconceptions about HIV and AIDS are collected every 3–5 years through household surveys, such as Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS), Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS), Reproductive and Health Surveys (RHS), Behavioural Surveillance Surveys (BSS), and other nationally representative household surveys.

Nationally representative population-based surveys, such as MICS and DHS, are conducted by national statistical offices or other relevant government offices, in collaboration with international partners.


The indicator should always be produced and presented as separate percentages for women and men; for the age groups of 15–19 and 20–24 years; and by urban and rural residence, wealth quintiles, education levels, and geographical regions. This will enable policy makers to better characterize HIV knowledge across different groups. In addition, scores on each of the individual survey questions (based on the same denominator) should be produced along with the score for the composite indicator.


Surveying the most-at-risk populations is challenging. The overall sample is normally not sufficiently large to provide a representative sample of the most-at-risk sub-group of the population. If there are concerns that the data are not based on a representative sample, these concerns should be reflected in the interpretation of the survey data. Where different sources of data exist, the best available estimate should be used. Information on the sample size, the quality and reliability of the data, and any related issues should be included in the report submitted with this indicator.


In most countries young men have higher levels of comprehensive knowledge of HIV than women due to gender differences that give men better education, access to the media and other sources of HIV related information, skills and services than women.


The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is the international agency responsible for this indicator at the international level. Data are compiled from DHS, MICS and other surveys at the country level that are statistically sound and nationally representative. The results are reported regularly in the final reports of these surveys.

As part of a routine data quality control process, survey results are checked for inconsistencies and to make sure that data are collected using a clearly defined population-based sampling frame, permitting inferences to be drawn about an entire population. UNICEF also conducts an annual exercise called the Country Reports on Indicators for the Goals (CRING), in which data maintained in the global databases at UNICEF are sent to countries for validation and updates on recent information for all indicators regularly reported on by UNICEF. Updates from countries must be accompanied by original source documentation, e.g. survey reports.

The data from household surveys used to produce the indicator are weighted according to the survey design to create a nationally representative indicator. No additional alterations are made to the data.

There could be discrepancies between global and national figures if national figures are calculated based on only some components of the indicator or on surveys based on only some geographic areas. No estimations are produced if no data are available.

Regional and global estimates are based on population-weighted averages weighted by the total number of young women and men 15–24 years of age. These estimates are presented only if available data cover at least 50 per cent of total men and women 15–24 years of age in the regional or global groupings.




See “REFERENCES” for Indicator 6.1.

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