How is HIV infection prevented?

Updated: Jul 27, 2020
  • Author: Shelley A Gilroy, MD, FACP, FIDSA; Chief Editor: Michael Stuart Bronze, MD  more...
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On an individual level, the most effective methods for prevention of HIV infection include (1) avoidance of sexual contact outside a monogamous relationship, (2) the use of safer sex practices for all other sexual encounters, and (3) abstinence from nonmedical parenteral drug use.

In addition, measures can also be taken to prevent or deter HIV transmission risk from infected persons to noninfected individuals through behavioral, biomedical, and structural interventions aimed at reducing their infectiousness and their risk of exposing others to HIV. Such measures are detailed in the CDC's Recommendations for HIV Prevention in Adults and Adolescents with HIV Infection in the United States. [11]

In March 2019, the CDC reported that approximately 80% of new US HIV infections are transmitted by 40% of persons with HIV infection. In 2016, persons unaware of their HIV infection (15% of the infected population) transmitted 38% of new HIV infections. Persons aware of their HIV infection but not receiving care (23% of the infected population) transmitted 43% of new HIV infections. Persons with HIV infection receiving care but not virally suppressed (11% of the infected population) transmitted 20% of new HIV infections. HIV-infected persons undergoing treatment with viral suppression (51% of the infected population) transmitted 0% of new infections. [140]

These findings suggest that increased HIV status awareness, HIV treatment initiation and sustained treatment compliance, effective viral suppression with ART, and prevention methods such as condom use and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) can greatly reduce the rate of new HIV infections.

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