Importance of Preventing New HIV Infections
HIV prevention efforts have continued to evolve since the beginning of the United States' HIV/AIDS epidemic in
the 1980s. Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that rates of new infections are not rising
in most populations, prevention efforts are still essential to combating the HIV epidemic, as there are
currently approximately 40,000 people newly infected with HIV every year in the U.S.
In addition to saving lives, prevention efforts have been shown to save money. A study from 2015
calculated a savings of $229,800-$338,400 in medical costs per HIV infection that is prevented. Effective
prevention programs have the potential to greatly reduce the financial burden of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
Using the four key strategies outlined in the Ending the HIV Epidemic (EHE)
initiative, CDC is focusing on these core strategies to prevent new HIV infections, by targeting:
Early diagnosis through testing to connect people with treatment and medication to prevent further
Proven prevention strategies (described further below) including syringe services programs and pre-exposure
Treatment of HIV-positive people to reach viral suppression
Rapid response of HIV outbreaks in communities to minimize rates of transmission
The most common and well-established forms of HIV prevention include:
prophylaxis (PrEP) – PrEP involves prescribing HIV medications to HIV-negative persons at high
of acquiring HIV. If an HIV-negative person on a PrEP drug regimen comes into contact with the virus, they
are much less likely to become infected.
Use of clean needles – The HIV virus can be
transmitted if a hypodermic needle is used on an HIV-infected person and then re-used before being properly
disinfected. The use of clean hypodermic needles, such as for injections or tattoo application, prevents the
transmission of HIV. Syringe exchange programs or syringe services programs (SSPs) are community prevention
programs that facilitate the disposal of used needles and reduce the spread of infectious diseases, such as
HIV. SSPs also may offer additional services, such as connecting people to treatment for substance use
disorders, vaccination, and other types of treatment and medical care.
of sexual transmission using condoms – Proper use of condoms and other protective barriers
sexual activity greatly reduces the chance that an HIV-positive person will infect their partner with HIV.
of mother-to-child transmission – Infants with HIV-positive mothers are at risk of contracting
in utero, during the birth process, and during breastfeeding. To reduce these risks, a mother is placed on a
regimen of HIV medication that lowers the amount of virus in her body, in turn lowering the chances of her
child being infected by HIV.
prophylaxis (PEP) – When people know they have been potentially exposed to the HIV virus, they
be prescribed HIV medications that reduce the risk of HIV establishing an infection. PEP may be used when a
person has an unprotected sexual encounter with an HIV-positive person or may be used in occupational
settings, such as when a healthcare worker is stuck with a needle used on an HIV-positive person.
For more information about models for HIV prevention in rural communities, see Models to Prevent New Infections in Module 2.
Resources to Learn More
Folded Pocket Guides
Small booklets providing specific information about HIV testing, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), prevention
methods, and the benefits of HIV treatment.
Organization(s): Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
HIV Risk and Prevention
Provides information on the prevention of HIV transmission. Topics covered include HIV risk and prevention
estimates, oral sex, substance use, injection drug use, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), post-exposure
prophylaxis (PEP), HIV treatment as prevention, and other prevention methods.
Organization(s): Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Transmitted Infections: Adopting a Sexual Health Paradigm
Examines the problems and barriers to prevention and control of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in the
U.S. Offers recommendations for future health programs, policy, and research to address the issues with
Organization(s): Committee on Prevention and Control of Sexually Transmitted Infections in the U.S., National
Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine