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

  • 26 Oct, 2009

    China / Prevention-PMTCT: A case series of 104 women infected with HIV-1 via blood transfusion postnatally: high rate of HIV-1 t

    Liang and colleagues investigated transmission of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) via breast-feeding by 104 Chinese mothers who acquired the infection through blood transfusion postnatally. Of 106 children, 38 (35.8%) were infected. All children survived to age 5 years, and their survival curve was similar to that of their mothers.

  • 22 Oct, 2009

    Research / Prevention: Un anneau vaginal pour bloquer le sida

    Des essais cliniques sont actuellement en cours en Belgique afin de mettre au point un nouveau moyen de lutte contre le virus du sida: un anneau vaginal diffusant en continu un médicament antirétroviral contrer le VIH appelé la dapvirine. Seize femmes belges âgées de 18 à 35 ans participent à l'étude clinique, unique en Belgique, qui se déroule à l'hôpital Stuyvenberg d'Anvers, sous l'égide de l'antenne belge de l'ONG IPM (Partenariat pour les microbicides). "Le médicament dapivirine est connu contre le virus du sida, mais il n'est pas bien toléré par voie orale", explique le Dr.

  • 21 Oct, 2009

    Mali / Prevention: Malian Women Push Condom Use to Reduce Spread of AIDS

    Dakar - Women in Mali are encouraging more men to use condoms to slow the spread of the virus that causes AIDS. The prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Mali is low for West Africa, effecting less than two percent of the adult population. Since 2003, the U.S. Agency for International Development has been working with the Malian League of Imams and Scholars on an Imam Outreach program to include prevention messages in Friday sermons. Diarra Munjara heads a group for Malian women and children effected by AIDS. Some are HIV positive.

  • 21 Oct, 2009

    Research / PMTCT: Preventing Viral Transmission In Pregnancy Possible With HIV-1 Treatment

    In what could be good news to hundreds of HIV positive pregnant women, a new study by American researchers has found that mothers receiving antiretroviral therapy (HAART) to treat HIV-1 infection have less chances of transmitting the deadly virus to their newborn child through breastfeeding. The research led by Taha E. Taha, MBBS, PhD, of Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health report, is accessible online in the Nov.

  • 14 Oct, 2009

    Nicaragua / Prevention: Aumentan mujeres jóvenes con el VIH

    El retrasar el inicio de las relaciones sexuales para prevenir el contagio del VIH, será el mensaje que llevarán los líderes religiosos a los adolescentes y jóvenes de Nicaragua, afirmó el doctor José Medrano, secretario Técnico de la Comisión Nicaragüense del Sida, Conisida. Medrano sostuvo una reunión con la Organización basadas en la Fe, para fortalecer el vínculo con la juventud, quienes están más expuestos a contraer la enfermedad.

  • 13 Oct, 2009

    Zimbabwe / Prevention: Positive women's football beats stigma

    HARARE, 13 October 2009 (PlusNews) - Janet Mpilime, 32, captain of the ARV Swallows, an all-woman football team based in the informal settlement of Epworth, 10km east of the Zimbabwean capital, Harare, has just led her team to a 2-1 victory over Sporting ART. Wearing a football kit similar to that of Spain's number-one team, Barcelona, and smiling broadly, Mpilime explained that the name ARV Swallows was chosen to help fight stigma against people living with HIV. ARV is short for antiretroviral, the life-prolonging drugs used to treat people with HIV, while ART stands for antiretroviral treat

  • 9 Oct, 2009

    India / Prevention-PMTCT: Soon, mandatory for pregnant women in India to undergo HIV test

    Passing AIDS from mother to child is a human rights violation and soon all pregnant women in India will have to undergo a mandatory HIV test, the parliamentary forum on HIV and AIDS said on Friday. "We want a HIV free generation. We are for testing all pregnant women for HIV so that no children can be born with the disease," Oscar Fernandes, head of the Parliamentary Forum on HIV and AIDS, told IANS. "Passing the disease to a new born is a human rights violation.

  • 8 Oct, 2009

    Kenya / Prevention: Improving PMTCT services through Millennium Villages. Today, 64 percent of Sauri's mothers have their babies

    SAURI, 8 October 2009 (PlusNews) - Five years ago, pregnant women in the village of Sauri, in western Kenya's Nyanza Province, had access to just one rundown and poorly staffed sub-district hospital.

  • 7 Oct, 2009

    Uganda / Prevention: Target the married in fight against HIV/AIDS

    Men and Women in a marriage are expected to be faithful to each other. But is that the reality on the ground? Being faithful is just a fallacy among many men and women. Reports have shown that 40 to 60% of HIV positive persons have HIV negative spouses and these are at 10 to 12% HIV transmission risk per year (CeSSRA Public Lecture: March 6, 2009). More than 75% of Ugandans do not know their HIV status and only approximately 30% of couples have tested together.

  • 7 Oct, 2009

    Uganda / Prevention-microbicides: New Microbicides Tests for Better Protection Against HIV

    A new phase of testing of microbicides, a possible new HIV prevention tool for women, gets underway in Rwanda.The research is being carried out and tests will begin before the end of the year for the gel microbicide. It is done by Project Ubuzima, an international NGO which promotes reproductive health and HIV/AIDS prevention, working closely with the Ministry of Health. Project Ubuzima's Community Outreach manager, Marie-Michele Umulisa, said, that the International Partnership for Microbicides (IPM) will consider two types of microbicides: a ring and a gel.