Population Size Estimation Workshop – Harare (June 2017)

Liz Fearon, Research Fellow at the MeSH Consortium, delivered a workshop in conjuction with CESHHAR in Harare, Zimbabwe in June 2017.

Programmers providing services and planners alocating funds need estimates of the size of the population they aim to reach and engage. However, for ‘hidden’ populations these figures are not readily available nor straightforward to obtain. There are methods for population size estimation, which can be triagulated to provide working estimates. CESHHAR and MeSH have now obtained estimates for the size of the population of female sex workers at 20 sites around the country, but there is a need to use this information to develop a national level estimate, as well as other site estimates, to inform epidemic prediction, planning and resource allocation at the country and regional levels.

On June 6th and 7th, MeSH in conjuction with CeSHHAR held a participatory population size estimation workshop in Harare with members of the Ministry of Health, National AIDS Council, CDC, UNAIDS, RTI International and expert programmers working with CeSHHAR’s Sisters with a Voice programme to provide services to female sex workers around the country.

After providing an overview of methods and key aspects to consider in using such estimates, we engaged participants in a process to develop a national level estimate. We reviewed direct estimates from 20 sites, in most cases obtained using two or three different methods and agreed an approach to synthesising estimates. We generated a list of sites around Zimbabwe where we expected significant levels of sex work to exist, such as mining towns, border towns and transport hubs, most currently served by the Sisters programme and some additional sites. After classifying sites and much lively debate, we agreed a scheme by which to group sites likely to be similar in their prevalence of sex work. This work will enable us to move forward with three methods of extrapolation to compare. We discussed questions around ethics and issues related to communication of uncertainty to stakeholders, and agreed a plan and timelnie to move forward.

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