HIV Prevention

Preventing new HIV infections is a key step toward ending the HIV pandemic as we know it. NIAID-supported researchers have worked since the early days of AIDS in the 1980s to identify prevention tools to keep people healthy. Today, an array of prevention methods are available for use in combination or on their own, and scientists continue to work to develop and improve cutting-edge tools and techniques that can work to prevent HIV in diverse populations around the world.

Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP)

Pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, is a biomedical HIV prevention tool recommended for use worldwide to help protect people who are at substantial risk for HIV infection. NIAID played an instrumental role in establishing the efficacy of PrEP and currently supports research to develop longer-acting forms of this prevention strategy. Read more about PrEP. 

Treatment as Prevention

NIAID-supported research has proven that treatment for HIV infection not only preserves the health of the individual, but also prevents heterosexual transmission of the virus. Read more about treatment as prevention.


NIAID supports research to develop a microbicide, a product that could be inserted into the vagina or rectum to safely block sexual transmission of HIV. Since women and girls are at particularly high risk for HIV/AIDS in many parts of the world, it is especially important to have an effective, desirable vaginal microbicide as an HIV prevention tool that women can control. Read more about microbicides.

Prevention of Perinatal Transmission

Perinatal HIV transmission—HIV transmission from mother to child during pregnancy, labor and delivery, or breastfeeding—accounts for the majority of childhood HIV infections worldwide. NIAID research paved the way for development of approaches used to prevent perinatal transmission around the globe, and current work focuses on optimizing prevention strategies. Read more about prevention of perinatal transmission.

Passive Antibody Transfer

Passive antibody transfer is an experimental prevention technique that involves giving anti-HIV antibodies directly to an uninfected person by injections or intravenous infusions to prevent HIV infection. NIAID is working to further develop this strategy and to evaluate and improve broadly neutralizing antibodies against HIV. Read more about passive antibody transfer.

Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision

Voluntary medical male circumcision protects against HIV infection by safely removing the foreskin, which is susceptible to infection, from the penis. Male circumcision significantly reduces the risk of sexually transmitting HIV from a woman living with HIV to a man, and is now recommended by the World Health Organization. NIAID-funded research played a major role in the discovery that male circumcision is an effective HIV prevention strategy. Read more about voluntary medical male circumcision.

Harm Reduction

Drug use and related behaviors, such as the exchange of sex for drugs or money, are linked to an increased risk of HIV infection. NIAID and other NIH institutes work to develop and optimize harm reduction interventions that decrease the risk of drug use-associated and sexual transmission of HIV among injecting and non-injecting drug users. Read more about harm reduction.

Condom Use

Consistent and correct condom use was one of the earliest recommendations for preventing HIV infection at the start of the pandemic outbreak in the early 1980s. It remains an essential tool in preventing the transmission of not only HIV, but also other sexually transmitted infections like gonorrhea and chlamydia. Latex condoms offer an impermeable barrier, preventing the bodily fluids that contain HIV from entering a partner during sex and infecting that person. Read more about condom use.

Developing an HIV Vaccine

Developing a safe and effective HIV vaccine would accelerate a durable end to the global HIV/AIDS pandemic. Though a preventative vaccine for HIV does not yet exist, NIAID oversees a robust research program to develop and evaluate vaccine candidates. Working with HIV poses unique challenges to vaccine researchers because of the complicated interactions between the virus and the human immune system, but one trial has demonstrated a moderate degree of success. In 2009, a vaccine candidate studied in a trial of over 16,000 individuals in Thailand was the first to modestly protect against HIV infection. A South African trial testing a new candidate based on this promising vaccine launched in 2015 and is still in progress. Several other planned vaccine trials and research studies that will begin in the coming years will continue to work towards a vaccine that delivers potent protection against HIV. Read more about HIV vaccine development.

Content last reviewed on March 22, 2017