Rethinking HIV prevention to prepare for oral PrEP implementation for young African women

Connie L. Celum, Sinead Delany-Moretlwe, Margaret McConnell, Heidi Van Rooyen, Linda Gail Bekker, Ann Kurth, Elizabeth Bukusi, Chris Desmond, Jennifer Morton, Jared M. Baeten

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Introduction: HIV incidence remains high among young women in sub-Saharan Africa in spite of scale-up of HIV testing, behavioural interventions, antiretroviral treatment and medical male circumcision. There is a critical need to critique past approaches and learn about the most effective implementation of evidence-based HIV prevention strategies, particularly emerging interventions such as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). Discussion: Women in sub-Saharan Africa are at increased risk of HIV during adolescence and into their 20s, in part due to contextual factors including gender norms and relationship dynamics, and limited access to reproductive and sexual health services. We reviewed behavioural, behavioural economic and biomedical approaches to HIV prevention for young African women, with a particular focus on the barriers, opportunities and implications for implementing PrEP in this group. Behavioural interventions have had limited impact in part due to not effectively addressing the context, broader sexual norms and expectations, and structural factors that increase risk and vulnerability. Of biomedical HIV prevention strategies that have been tested, daily oral PrEP has the greatest evidence for protection, although adherence was low in two placebo-controlled trials in young African women. Given high efficacy and effectiveness in other populations, demonstration projects of open-label PrEP in young African women are needed to determine the most effective delivery models and whether women at substantial risk are motivated and able to use oral PrEP with sufficient adherence to achieve HIV prevention benefits. Conclusions: Social marketing, adherence support and behavioural economic interventions should be evaluated as part of PrEP demonstration projects among young African women in terms of their effectiveness in increasing demand and optimizing uptake and effective use of PrEP. Lessons learned through evaluations of implementation strategies for delivering oral PrEP, a firstgeneration biomedical HIV prevention product, will inform development of new and less user-dependent PrEP formulations and delivery of an expanding choice of prevention options in HIV prevention programmes for young African women.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20227
JournalJournal of the International AIDS Society
StatePublished - Jul 20 2015


  • Africa
  • HIV
  • Pre-exposure prophylaxis
  • Prevention
  • Women

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Infectious Diseases


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