Strategic information is fundamental to the formulation and delivery of effective HIV programmes, but generating that information is a complex process, for which most countries in south and south-east Asia lack capacity and supporting structures. Although most countries in this region have made tremendous strides in collecting relevant data, advances in the ability to translate that data into strategic information and evidence for action, have not kept pace. To overcome these shortcomings, this paper presents a comprehensive approach to collecting strategic information and building the capacity to use it effectively, which is based on experience in the successful use of data in different countries in south and south-east Asia. The system recommended here requires that staff and resources carry out four major functions: implement an early alert and response system allowing for the timely collection, synthesis and use of information to respond quickly to emerging epidemics; carefully analyze data to develop policy scenarios and resource projections to guide decision-making; periodically evaluate the impact of the current response and make recommendations to improve it; and engage policy-makers in ways that proactively promote improvements to current programmes based on evidence. At present, countries in this region are carrying out these functions in an ad-hoc and uncoordinated manner, if at all. The establishment and resourcing of structures dedicated to fulfilling these functions in an organized and coordinated manner are required to counteract the formidable barriers and challenges that inhibit the use of Asia's wealth of data for maximum benefit.