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HIV and AIDS Prevention

Despite progress there are more people living with HIV and AIDS  now than ever before. We are supporting national and international efforts to prioritise prevention.  

Prevention lagging behind

 Although there has been remarkable progress in treatment coverage, prevention of HIV has been lagging behind. There are now estimated to be about 8 million people on antiretroviral treatment worldwide.  And although the rate of HIV infection appears to have peaked, an estimated 2.5 million people (UN figure for 2011) continue to be infected each year.

There are now more people living with HIV in the world than ever before. For every person put on treatment, another two get infected. If this trend continues we will never control this epidemic. Greater efforts need to be made to reduce the numbers who become infected each year

Understanding what  drives of the epidemic

Some drivers of the epidemic such as stigma, gender and socio-economic inequalities have been identified, and vulnerable and most at risk populations recognised. Gender based violence (GBV) for example  is both a driver and a consequence of the epidemic. HIV can be transmitted during rape and many women who are brave enough to state that they are HIV positive have suffered physical and emotional abuse from their partners or families because of the stigmas associated with the virus.

Improved understanding of these dynamics and of what works to reduce new infections substantially help policy makers to address their national and sub-national epidemics.

Knowledge and Information key

Knowledge and information on the virus is essential to preventing it.  Knowing your HIV status is key.  Only when people know their status can they respond appropriately - including through reducing risky behaviour and practice safe sex. Such changes will require community based behavioural transformative approaches and models, user friendly and effective health services where human rights are safeguarded for all, and strong leadership at all levels.

Reducing stigma

HIV-related stigma discourages infected and affected people from seeking counselling and testing, as well as other related prevention, care and support services that are available.

Our Response

Preventing the spread of HIV and AIDS is one of our  key priorities. Our response has been guided by our understanding of the dynamics how poverty and HIV are interrelated.  Our efforts seek to address HIV in a comprehensive way both through improved health services and more broadly through education, agriculture and nutrition and social and community programmes. 

Education is the best vaccine

School-based education programmes help to promote HIV prevention from an early age. Getting children into school and to stay in school has been shown to be one of the most effective ways of preventing HIV.  Education and the exposure it brings to new ideas and concepts helps with understanding and increases capacity of young people to protect themselves,  to have a healthy attitude towards safe sex and leading a healthy life. 

Targeted information campaigns aimed at healthy sexual behaviour. 

While prioritising support for education through programmatic approaches, we also support targeted interventions in HIV prevention that seek out the most vulnerable, hard to reach children  including those living on the street, out of school youth and child headed household. 

People living in poverty and in rural communities are the hardest to reach with effective messaging and interventions to improve understanding about HIV/AIDS. We know that understanding how to prevent transmission of HIV is the first step to avoiding infection. Following that community support needs to be adequate to enable a supportive attitude towards safe sex and leading a healthy life. Armed with the right understanding and a supportive society, people can make the right choices and establish healthy sexual behaviour. 

Support for testing and counselling

Irish Aid supports HIV testing, and equally importantly counselling services for those who wish to test so that they are supported in dealing with the test results. When people know their status whether positive or negative people are empowered are to take action to protect their families 

Prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV

Women living with HIV who become pregnant are more vulnerable to AIDS related pregnancy complications, putting their health and life at risk. There is also a high risk of transmission of the virus to their child. We support timely access to antiretroviral drugs to stop mother to child transmission of the virus and help the mother stay well. 

Gender equality and empowerment of women and girls at the heart of our approach

We recognise that gender inequality are key underlying “drivers” of HIV and AIDS. Stigma against people living with HIV remains strong – particularly against  women with HIV.We support many programmes to tackle Gender Based Violence both in our HIV interventions and more broadly to promote gender equality. 

Research and Innovation

We know that understanding how to prevent transmission of HIV is the first step to avoiding infection.   We support research aimed at better understanding the dynamics of what drives HIV  and we also   fund cutting edge research initiatives in the areas of AIDS vaccine development.  With Irish Aid’s support, we are seeing exciting progress in the development of microbicides which have great potential to empower women to protect themselves against the virus.