HIV prevention strategies: evaluating what works

Credit: YakubovAlim (iStock)

Cambridge University research has played a fundamental role in the control of HIV by developing tools to enable monitoring of infection in the population worldwide, informing the design of disease control strategies, and evaluating what works.

These approaches have contributed to improvements in the quality and quantity of life for thousands of HIV-infected individuals and reduced HIV spread, helping to place the UK on track to eliminate transmission of HIV by 2030.

There is no cure or vaccine for HIV, a global epidemic that has so far infected 76 million people, killed 33 million people, and cost the global economy hundreds of billions of pounds. A key disease control strategy involves early HIV diagnosis and lifelong use of highly effective anti-viral medicines. This approach demonstrably reduces viral transmission, prevents illness and prolongs life, but its success depends on being able to reliably monitor HIV rates in the population, identify high-risk groups, and design and evaluate strategies to reduce transmission.

The Cambridge team has developed new statistical approaches that combine different data sources and account for the uncertainties and limitations that affect each source. The tools inform infection control strategies by enabling the monitoring needed to make them effective, and by generating evidence that these strategies improve quality of life, prevent illness, prolong life and save money.

These approaches have been adopted by Public Health England, the European Centre for Disease Control and other international bodies as their methods of choice.