Feature story

UNAIDS response to “Reassessing HIV Prevention”

06 June 2008

“Only” doesn’t work for HIV prevention.

UNAIDS advocates that countries implement HIV prevention programmes that will be truly effective in reducing new HIV infections. This requires a strategic combination of interventions that address populations that are at risk or vulnerable for transmission and that utilize behavioral and social change methods that are appropriate and informed by the latest evidence.

The word “only” doesn’t work for AIDS—whether it’s for treatment only, HIV prevention only, condoms only, abstinence only or male circumcision only. In reality we need it all—a truly comprehensive approach. For UNAIDS, the three pillars of a comprehensive and effective AIDS response, as we move towards universal access, are HIV prevention, treatment and care and support.

Since its establishment in 1996, UNAIDS has supported comprehensive approaches to HIV prevention, applying a combination of strategies that respond to actual needs. Countries should determine the right combination of HIV prevention interventions through an analysis of the current epidemic and the state of the national response. Part of this analysis should include an understanding of the effectiveness in the relevant populations and settings. This approach was endorsed by the member states when they adopted the UNAIDS policy position paper on intensifying HIV prevention in June 2005.

Recently in a Policy Forum article in Science, Dr. Malcolm Potts and nine colleagues call for “Reassessing HIV Prevention.” UNAIDS definitely agrees that programmes should undergo regular monitoring and evaluation of impact, but we disagree on the narrow prescriptions that these authors provide. These include their interpretations of the linkages of HIV and poverty, the effectiveness of condoms and HIV testing and counseling as HIV prevention tools, the need to prioritize male circumcision and the reduction of sexual partners, at the expense of other HIV prevention programmes. We also wish to clarify UNAIDS’ assessment of resource needs for HIV prevention in countries with generalized HIV epidemics.

Read full UNAIDS response (pdf, 32.8 Kb)