While global prevalence of HIV infection (percentage of persons infected with HIV) appears to have stabilized in recent years, the global number of people living with HIV is increasing because of ongoing accumulation of new infections with longer survival times, measured over a continuously growing general population.

Across the world, a small but growing number of countries have reduced HIV prevalence through sound prevention efforts. The high rates of transmission of HIV result largely from failure to use the available and effective prevention strategies and tools, and poor coverage of HIV prevention programmes. HIV prevention services were only reaching 20% of people in need in 2005, while coverage for key populations at higher risk of exposure to HIV were considerably lower.

Effective HIV prevention programming focuses on the critical relationships between the epidemiology of HIV infection, the risk behaviours that expose to HIV transmission, and also addresses the collective social and institutional factors, such as sexual norms, gender inequality, and HIV related stigma, that will otherwise continue to fuel HIV epidemic. 

Risk behaviours are enmeshed in complex webs of economic, legal, political, cultural and psychosocial determinants that must be analyzed and addressed by policies that are also effectively implemented, and through scaled-up programming.

Comprehensive HIV prevention requires a combination of programmatic and policy actions that promote safer behaviours, reduce vulnerability to transmission, encourage use of key prevention technologies, promote social norms that favor risk reduction and address drivers of the epidemic. 

Effective prevention efforts focus on measures that directly support risk reduction by providing information and skills as well as access to needed commodities (such as condoms, sterile injecting equipment, and drug substitution therapy) for the populations most in need.  In short, national planners and policymakers must: 1) Know their epidemic; and 2) Set priorities accordingly. 

Prevention and treatment must be scaled up in a balanced way, to capitalize fully on synergies between the two.  Comprehensive HIV prevention requires a combination of programmatic interventions and policy actions that promote safer behaviours, reduce biological and social vulnerabilities to transmission, encourage use of key prevention technologies, and promote social norms that favour risk reduction. 

HIV prevention includes addressing an array of issues discussed in other thematic areas in the policy section of the website. Forging links among HIV prevention with related programmes and services such as sexual and reproductive health services and legal services for women, can also contribute to intensification of HIV prevention. Strong linkages as well as special efforts to reach those at higher risk and excluded from access to services will result in more relevant and cost-effective programmes with greater impact.

Essential Policy Actions for HIV Prevention

  • Ensure that human rights are promoted, protected and respected and that measures are taken to eliminate discrimination and combat stigma.
  • Build and maintain leadership from all sections of society, including governments, affected communities, nongovernmental organizations, faith-based organizations, the education sector, media, the private sector and trade unions.
  • Involve people living with HIV, in the design, implementation and evaluation of prevention strategies, addressing the distinct prevention needs.
  • Address cultural norms and beliefs, recognizing both the key role they may play in supporting prevention efforts and the potential they have to fuel HIV transmission.
  • Promote gender equality and address gender norms and relations to reduce the vulnerability of women and girls, involving men and boys in this effort.
  • Promote widespread knowledge and awareness of how HIV is transmitted and how infection can be averted.
  • Promote the links between HIV prevention and sexual and reproductive health.
  • Support the mobilization of community-based responses throughout the continuum of prevention, care and treatment.
  • Promote programmes targeted at HIV prevention needs of key affected groups and populations.
  • Mobilizing and strengthening financial, and human and institutional capacity across all sectors, particularly in health and education.
  • Review and reform legal frameworks to remove barriers to effective, evidence based HIV prevention, combat stigma and discrimination and protect the rights of people living with HIV or vulnerable or at risk to HIV.
  • Ensure that sufficient investments are made in the research and development of, and advocacy for, new prevention technologies.

The latest from the GCWA

  • 8 Feb, 2010

    Sub-Saharan Africa / Prevention-PMTCT: Impact of Antiretroviral Therapy on Incidence of Pregnancy among HIV-Infected Women in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Cohort Study

    Background With the rapid expansion of antiretroviral therapy (ART) services in sub-Saharan Africa there is growing recognition of the importance of fertility and childbearing among HIV-infected women. However there are few data on whether ART initiation influences pregnancy rates. Methods and Findings We analyzed data from the Mother-to-Child Transmission-Plus (MTCT-Plus) Initiative, a multicountry HIV care and treatment program for women, children, and families.

  • 6 Feb, 2010

    Mexico / Prevention-PMTCT: Realizan pruebas ràpidas de VIH/Sida a mujeres embazadas

    Tampico, Tamaulipas.-En el Centro de Ambulatorio de Prevención y Atención en SIDA e Infecciones de Transmisión Sexual, se están realizando las pruebas rápidas de VIH a las personas que han tenido relaciones sexuales de riesgo. El año pasado se realizaron 1917 pruebas ràpidas a mujeres embarazadas, resultando positivas dos, siendo la prevalencia con este grupo de 0.1 por ciento por cada embarazada; tambièn se hicieron 2334 a la poblaciòn abierta, de las cuales resultaron positivos 32, por lo que la prevalencia es de 1.37 por ciento por cada dos mil. La doctora Sara Edna Carriles Vargas, titular

  • 14 Jan, 2010

    Paraguay / Prevention-PMTCT: Menos contagio del VIH de madre a hijo

    Mediante un trabajo colaborativo entre instituciones públicas y privadas, el 74% de las embarazadas –portadoras del VIH/sida– de nuestro país evitaron contagiar el mal a sus hijos, mediante una profilaxis oportuna. “Importantes resultan los logros obtenidos a nivel del acceso a la profilaxis para la prevención de la trasmisión perinatal del VIH.

  • 13 Jan, 2010

    Uganda / testing: Expectant mothers to take forced HIV tests

    HIV tests will soon become compulsory for all expectant mothers as the Health Ministry carries out a Shs 2.3 billion merger of Sexual Reproductive Health (RH) and HIV programmes this fiscal year. According to Dr. Collins Tusingwire, a Senior Medical Officer in-charge of integrating RH and HIV services, the integration has reached 80% of all health facilities in the country. These include regional referral hospitals, district health centres and Health Centres (HC-3s).

  • 12 Jan, 2010

    Uganda/Prevention-PMTCT: Dokolo Women Hindering Fight Against HIV, Says Report

    Dokolo District faces an upsurge in mother-to-child HIV/Aids due to inadequate sensitisation of expectant mothers on preventions, measures, a new report states. Health experts, who conducted the study, discovered that up to 35 per cent of expectant mothers who are potential carriers of the virus disregard preventive mechanisms and information offered at government hospitals, exposing hundreds of unborn children to the risk of being infected with HIV/Aids. "Our research shows that only 65 per cent of mothers in the past year responded positively to routine check ups to reduce mother-to-child H

  • 1 Jan, 2010

    IPPF Happy, Healthy and Hot: A young person’s guide to their rights, sexuality and living with HIV

    IPPF Happy, Healthy and Hot: A young person’s guide to their rights, sexuality and living with HIV

  • 22 Dec, 2009

    Uganda / Prevention: 'Less noisy' female condom proves a hit

    Kampala — Ten months after being re-launched, a new brand of female condom has proven popular among a test group of Ugandan women, according to a study. FC2 was launched in February; the government stopped distributing the original female condom, FC1, in 2007 on the grounds that women had complained it was smelly and noisy during sex. "The new condom has improved features and will enable women to have a procedure within their control to give them more choices for prevention [of HIV and unwanted pregnancies]," said Vashta Kibirige, the coordinator of the condom unit at the Ministry of Health.

  • 22 Dec, 2009

    Kenya/Prevention: Study shows young women would rather get Aids than fall pregnant

    When it comes to choosing emergency contraception, young Kenyan women trust their schoolmates. They also trust the chemist, the Internet and their boyfriends.The only people they don’t trust are their parents One word explains why a 25-year-old woman we’ll call Jane lowers her face in shame when explaining why she had unprotected sex with a man she had known for only a month. Trusted him “I trusted him,” Jane says, averting her eyes and squirming uncomfortably in her seat. The next morning, the enormity of her decision sank in — what if she got pregnant?

  • 20 Dec, 2009

    South Asia / Epidemic: South Asians confront AIDS among monogamous women

    WASHINGTON (WOMENSENEWS)--Ice was broken here in early December among three powerful groups of South Asian women. About 20 female parliamentarians, journalists and staff members of nonprofit groups in South Asia left Washington, D.C., with strategies they believed could reduce the current specter of women losing their homes after caring for spouses who died of AIDS, as well as aiding HIV-positive women who are unable to reach rural clinics and teens who aren't aware of how to prevent the infection. They were also carrying with them a loose agreement to work together within their region to sto

  • 14 Dec, 2009

    Global/Prevention-Microbicides: Microbicide hopes dashed again

    JOHANNESBURG, 14 December 2009 (PlusNews) - A four-year clinical trial involving nearly 10,000 women in East and Southern Africa has found that the vaginal microbicide gel, PRO 2000, is safe but not effective at preventing HIV infection. The trial, known as MDP 301, found that women who applied a vaginal gel containing a 0.2 percent dose of PRO 2000 before sex were infected with HIV at about the same rate as women who applied a placebo gel. During the course of the trial at six research sites in South Africa, Uganda, Zambia and Tanzania, 130 women in the PRO 2000 gel group and 123 in the plac