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

  • 6 Oct, 2009

    Nigeria / Prevention-PMTCT: HIV/Aids - Nigeria Accounts for 30 Percent Mother to Child Transmission

    Nigeria still accounts for over 30% cases of mother to child transmission of the HIV/AIDS virus during and after pregnancy, despite breakthrough by experts in the field to prevent the transmission. The director general of the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), Professor John Idoko who was speaking at the flag off of the National HIV/AIDS strategic framework/ plan yesterday in Abuja said this figure is a huge challenge and accounts for the global gap in the fight against the virus. He emphasized that preventive measures must be strengthened to stop the spread even as he stressed t

  • 6 Oct, 2009

    South Africa / Prevention: HIV rate among pregnant women stays high. HIV rates varied widely between districts

    Johannesburg.- The rate of HIV infection among pregnant women in South Africa has remained stubbornly high at around 29 percent for the third year running, according to government figures released on 5 October. The 2008 National Antenatal HIV and Syphilis Prevalence Survey - based on blood samples from 34,000 pregnant women who attended antenatal clinics in 52 health districts - measured HIV prevalence at 29.3 percent, compared to 29.4 percent in 2007 and 29.0 percent in 2006. Prevalence among women aged 15 to 24 declined slightly from 22.1 percent in 2007 to 21.7 percent in 2008, but the

  • 2 Oct, 2009

    GCWA partner / Prevention: HIV vaccine—a public good to right a global wrong

    The promise of a vaccine against HIV has got one step closer. Results from the largest vaccine trial ever conducted show a modest but encouraging 31% efficacy in preventing new HIV infections in Thailand. This has vindicated thousands of scientists and volunteers who have been hoping that a safe and highly effective HIV vaccine is possible This news comes at a time when the movement to achieve universal access to HIV prevention and treatment is gaining momentum.

  • 1 Oct, 2009

    Nigeria / Prevention-PMTCT: Inching towards universal access to PMTCT services

    Nairobi.- More than half of HIV-positive pregnant women in low- and middle-income countries continue to go without life-saving anti-retroviral medication that could prevent transmission of the virus to their unborn children, according to a new report, Towards Universal Access. "Although there is increasing emphasis on women and children in the global HIV/AIDS response, the disease continues to have a devastating impact on their health, livelihood and survival," Ann Veneman, executive director of the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), said in a statement. According to the report, in 2008, 45 pe

  • 1 Oct, 2009

    Violence: Working to Prevent and Address Violence Against Women Migrant Workers

    Almost half of the total number of migrant workers in the world today are women. It is important to acknowledge that labour migration may benefit them through economic and socio-cultural empowerment, however, due to their dual vulnerability as migrants and women, they are still disproportionately exposed to a variety of risks arising from their mobility.

  • 26 Sep, 2009

    Rwanda / Prevention: Microbicides Trials Set for November

    Kigali — New HIV/AIDS prevention measures known as microbicides are set to be introduced for women, should they prove to be effective after trials.This was revealed Thursday by Evelyne Kestelyn, the Scientific Manager of Project Ubuzima, an international non-government organisation that promotes reproductive health and HIV prevention. According to Kestelyn, the International Partnership for Microbicides (IPM) will consider two forms of microbicides, a gel and a ring. "The trials which will begin in November will be for the gel.

  • 23 Sep, 2009

    Bruni-Sarkozy endorses UNAIDS call to virtually eliminate mother-to-child HIV transmission by 2015

    Carla Bruni-Sarkozy echoed UNAIDS call to virtually eliminate mother-to-child HIV transmission by 2015 while addressing the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and leaders at a side event to the opening of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. The President of Burkina Faso Mr Blaise Compaoré and the Prime Minister of Ethiopia Mr Meles Zenawi co-chaired the event. “Around the world only a third of women living with HIV receive the necessary treatment to prevent the transmission.

  • 14 Sep, 2009

    Vietnam / Prevention: Stemming mother-to-child HIV

    The director of the Department of HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control, Nguyen Thanh Long, spoke to Suc khoe & Doi song (Health & Life) newspaper about measures to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV. Could you briefly describe the current status of mother-to-child transmission of HIV? The HIV epidemic in Viet Nam is complicated. The ways HIV is transmitted have undergone some changes. There is an increase in the rates of HIV transmission through sexual intercourse and female HIV patients.

  • 10 Sep, 2009

    Southern Africa / Prevention: What of the female condom? Anyone seen the female condom lately?

    Johannesburg, 10 September 2009 (PlusNews) - If you haven't seen a female condom lately, you're not alone. More than 15 years after the only female-controlled method to prevent HIV was introduced, it is still largely marginalized and inaccessible. Botswana The government distributed over 370,000 female condoms free of charge in 2008, mainly through its health facilities.

  • 9 Sep, 2009

    Cambodia / Prevention-PMTCT: Clinics lack maternal HIV services

    Fewer than two in 10 public health centres in Cambodia are equipped to help prevent the transmission of HIV/AIDS from mothers to babies, according to a new study. Only 154 of 957 public health centres in the country - 16 percent - provide Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV (PMTCT) services, according to a report published by the Treatment Monitoring and Advocacy Project of the International Treatment Preparedness Coalition. The report was part of a global study that examined PMTCT preparedness in six countries, including Cambodia. Dr Kem Ley, a consultant with the Monitoring an