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HIV Prevention Today

Prevention works. In the United States, investments in HIV prevention have paid off. The rate of new HIV infections has slowed from more than 150,000 in the mid-1980s (1) to 55,000-58,500 per year now (2). Despite the substantial decline, the rate of new infections is still unacceptably high, making prevention as important as ever. The links below provide tips for preventing HIV infection.

Preventing HIV Infection
Prevention and the CDC
Featured CDC HIV/AIDS Prevention Information

Preventing HIV Infection

The most reliable ways to avoid becoming infected with or transmitting HIV are:

  • Abstain from sexual intercourse (i.e., oral, vaginal, or anal sex)
  • Be in a long-term, mutually monogamous relationship with an uninfected partner
  • Abstain from sharing needles and/or syringes for nonprescription drugs

HIV and STDs
All partners should get tested for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) before initiating sexual intercourse. Having another STD increases, by two to five times, the likelihood a person will become infected with HIV and increases the likelihood an infected person will transmit HIV. (Learn more about the connection between HIV and STDs).

If a person chooses to have sexual intercourse with a partner whose infection status is unknown or who is infected with HIV or another STD, a new condom should be used for each act of insertive intercourse - oral, anal, or vaginal. (Learn more about infected persons.)

HIV and Injection Drug Users
Injection drug use has directly and indirectly accounted for more than 36% of AIDS cases in the United States since the epidemic began (3). Beyond abstinence, using a new, sterile needle or syringe with each injection remains the safest, most effective approach for limiting HIV and hepatitis transmission. (Learn more about injection drug users and HIV/AIDS.)

HIV and Pregnancy
Pregnant women should be routinely counseled and voluntarily tested for HIV. Early diagnosis allows a woman to receive effective antiretroviral therapies for her own health and preventive drugs (e.g., Zidovudine, also known as ZDV) to improve the chances that her infant will be born free of infection. (Learn more about women and HIV/AIDS.)

Prevention and the CDC

CDC remains on the forefront of pursuing high-impact HIV prevention and is aligning its recent efforts with the first National HIV/AIDS Strategy for the United States (PDF), released July 2010. New breakthroughs in HIV prevention research have created exciting opportunities towards eliminating the epidemic in the United States. The 2015 strategy goals are:

CDC's HIV Prevention Goals
CDC's overarching national HIV prevention goal is to reduce the number of new HIV infections in the United States from an estimated 40,000 to 20,000 per year, focusing particularly on eliminating racial and ethnic disparities in new HIV infections.

  • Reducing the annual number of new HIV infections, HIV transmission rate and percentage of people living with HIV who know their status
  • Increasing access to care and improving health outcomes for people living with HIV by linking newly diagnosed patients with clinical care within three months of their HIV diagnosis and increasing the number of Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program clients in continuous care and with permanent housing.
  • Reducing HIV-related health disparities by improving access to prevention and care services for all Americans and increasing the proportion of HIV diagnosed gay and bisexual men, Blacks, and Latinos with undetectable viral load by 20%.

For more information on the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, please visit the NHAS website.

CDC's HIV Prevention Strategy
CDC's comprehensive prevention strategy includes:

  • Tracking the epidemic to monitor HIV-related morbidity and mortality, plan and evaluate prevention programs, and guide the allocation of HIV program funds
  • Identifying causes that lead to HIV infection and identifying effective approaches to prevent infection
  • Implementing prevention programs, including counseling, testing and referrals, partner notification, and prevention for high-risk populations
  • Building capacity of state and local programs
  • Program evaluation and policy development
  • Fostering linkages with care and treatment programs

CDC's HIV Prevention Strategy
To maximize its effectiveness, CDC is pursuing an approach it refers to as High-Impact Prevention. By using combinations of scientifically proven, cost-effective, and scalable interventions targeted to the right populations in the right geographic areas, this approach promises to greatly increase the impact of HIV prevention efforts. Five primary considerations drive High-Impact Prevention:

  • Effectiveness and cost:High-Impact Prevention prioritizes proven interventions that are most cost-effective at reducing overall HIV infections.
  • Feasibility of full-scale implementation:Priority is placed on proven interventions that are practical to implement on a large scale, at reasonable cost.
  • Coverage in the target populations:Selection of proven interventions is based in part on how many people can be reached once the intervention is fully implemented.
  • Interaction and targeting:Attention is given to how different proven interventions interact, and how they most effectively can be combined to reach the most-affected populations in a given area.
  • Prioritization:Identify proven interventions that will have the greatest overall potential to reduce infections.

CDC’s High-Impact Prevention approach guides the broad allocation of prevention resources as well as the development of specific prevention strategies for all populations at risk, including gay and bisexual men, communities of color, women, injection drug users, transgender women and men, youth and others.

To enact its strategy, CDC is working in collaboration with many other governmental and nongovernmental partners at all levels to implement, evaluate, and further develop and strengthen effective HIV prevention efforts nationwide. In addition, CDC is providing financial and technical support for:

  • Disease surveillance
  • HIV antibody counseling, testing, and referral services
  • Street and community outreach
  • Risk-reduction counseling
  • Prevention case management
  • Prevention and treatment of other STDs
  • Public information and education
  • School-based AIDS education
  • International research studies
  • Technology transfer systems
  • Organizational capacity building
  • Program-relevant epidemiological, sociobehavioral, and evaluation research

As the lead agency for HIV prevention in the United States, CDC will continue to improve both biomedical and behavioral strategies to combat the HIV epidemic as it evolves. Clearly, multiple strategies are required to maintain and improve progress in prevention.

Featured CDC HIV/AIDS Prevention Information

Evidence-based Behavioral Interventions for Managers (online course)
From the Center for Health & Behavioral Training

National HIV Prevention Progress Report
From CDC's Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention
December 2013

Proven Prevention Methods (PDF)
From CDC's Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention
December 10, 2013

Challenges in HIV Prevention (PDF)
From CDC's Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention
December 10, 2013

Future of HIV Prevention (PDF)
From CDC's Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention
December 10, 2013

Background Brief on the Prevention Benefits of HIV Treatment
From CDC's Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention

National HIV/AIDS Strategy: Implementation Progress Report 2012 (PDF)
From U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

National HIV/AIDS Strategy: Update of 2011-2012 Federal Efforts to Implement the National HIV/AIDS Strategy (PDF)
From White House Office of National AIDS Policy

Interim Guidance for Clinicians Considering the Use of Preexposure Prophylaxis for the Prevention of HIV Infection in Heterosexually Active Adults
From CDC's MMWR Weekly; August 10, 2012 / 61(31);586-589

2012 Survey of Americans on HIV/AIDS
From the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation

HIV/AIDS: The State of the Epidemic After 3 Decades
From JAMA. 2012;308(4):330. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.8700

Prevention and Treatment of HIV and Other Sexually Transmitted Infections among Men Who Have Sex With Men And Transgender People
From the World Health Organization

HIV/AIDS At 30: A Public Opinion Perspective
From the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation

The HPTN 052 Study: Preventing Sexual Transmission of HIV with Anti--HIV Drugs (PDF)
From the HIV Prevention Trials Network

HIV Treatment as Prevention: It Works
From The Lancet, Volume 377, Issue 9779, Page 1719, 21 May 2011

Accelerating an HIV Prevention Revolution: A Roadmap (PDF)
From amfAR

Locally-Developed HIV/AIDS Prevention Interventions

Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) For HIV Prevention: Promoting Safe and Effective Use in the United States (PDF)
From CDC

Condom Distribution as a Structural Level Intervention: Scientific Support for Condom Distribution
From CDC’s Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention

Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP): Health Department Issues for Consideration (PDF)

White House Releases National HIV/AIDS Strategy
From the White House Office of National AIDS Policy

National HIV/AIDS Strategy: Federal Implementation Plan (PDF)
From the White House Office of National AIDS Policy

Overview of CDC's HIV Prevention Capacity Building Efforts (video podcast)
From CDC’s Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention

How can HIV prevention be integrated into health care settings?
From the Center for AIDS Prevention Studies, University of California San Francisco

HIV Prevention in the United States: At a Critical Crossroads (PDF)
From CDC's Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention

Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP). A Potential New Method for HIV Prevention. Advocate's Pocket Toolkit. (PDF)
From CDC's Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention

The National HIV Prevention Inventory: The State of HIV Prevention Across the U.S.
From the Kaiser Family Foundation and the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors

Effect of Antiretroviral Therapy on Risk of Sexual Transmission of HIV Infection and Superinfection
From CDC's Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention

2009 Compendium of Evidence-Based HIV Prevention Interventions
From CDC's Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention

Condoms and STDs: Fact Sheet for Public Health Personnel
From CDC's Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention

Condom Fact Sheet In Brief
From CDC's Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention

Advancing HIV Prevention: New Strategies for a Changing Epidemic
From CDC's Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention

For additional prevention campaign resources and tools, please visit CDC’s Prevention Programs page and NPIN’s Social Marketing and Education Campaigns page.

1 CDC. Interpretation and Discussion of Findings. 2007. [cited 2008 Aug 15].
2 CDC. HIV Incidence [online]. 2008. [cited 2008 Aug 15]. Available from URL:
3 CDC. Drug-Associated HIV Transmission Continues in the United States [online]. 2002. [cited 2008 Aug 15]. Available from URL:

Page Last Updated: February 10, 2014

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