Geographic Information Systems, spatial analysis, and HIV in Africa: A scoping review

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PLoS One

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and spatial analysis are emerging tools for global health, but it is unclear to what extent they have been applied to HIV research in Africa. To help inform researchers and program implementers, this scoping review documents the range and depth of published HIV-related GIS and spatial analysis research studies conducted in Africa.

A systematic literature search for articles related to GIS and spatial analysis was conducted through PubMed, EMBASE, and Web of Science databases. Using pre-specified inclusion criteria, articles were screened and key data were abstracted. Grounded, inductive analysis was conducted to organize studies into meaningful thematic areas.

Results and discussion
The search returned 773 unique articles, of which 65 were included in the final review. 15 different countries were represented. Over half of the included studies were published after 2014. Articles were categorized into the following non-mutually exclusive themes: (a) HIV geography, (b) HIV risk factors, and (c) HIV service implementation. Studies demonstrated a broad range of GIS and spatial analysis applications including characterizing geographic distribution of HIV, evaluating risk factors for HIV, and assessing and improving access to HIV care services.

GIS and spatial analysis have been widely applied to HIV-related research in Africa. The current literature reveals a diversity of themes and methodologies and a relatively young, but rapidly growing, evidence base.

Boyda D, Holzman S, Berman A, Grabowski MK, Chang LW. Geographic Information Systems, Spatial Analysis, and HIV in Africa: A Scoping Review. PLoS One. 2019 May 3;14(5):e0216388. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0216388. eCollection 2019. PMID: 31050678; PMCID:PMC6499437.