A Lifecycle Approach to HIV Prevention in African Women and Children
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Effective biomedical and structural HIV prevention approaches are being implemented throughout sub-Saharan Africa. A “lifecycle approach” to HIV prevention recognizes the interconnectedness of the health of women, children and adolescents, and prioritizes interventions that have benefits across these populations. We review new biomedical prevention strategies for women, adolescents and children, structural prevention approaches, and new modalities for eliminating infant HIV infection, and discuss the implications of a lifecycle approach for the success of these methods. Some examples of the lifecycle approach include evaluating education and HIV prevention strategies among adolescent girls not only for their role in reducing risk of HIV infection and early pregnancy, but also to promote healthy adolescents who will have healthier future children. Similarly, early childhood interventions such as exclusive breastfeeding not only prevent HIV, but also contribute to better child and adolescent health outcomes. The most ambitious biomedical infant HIV prevention effort, Option B+, also represents a lifecycle approach by leveraging the prevention benefits of optimal HIV treatment for mothers; maternal survival benefits from Option B+ may have ultimately more health impact on children than the prevention of infant HIV in isolation. The potential for synergistic and additive benefits of lifecycle interventions should be considered when scaling up HIV prevention efforts in sub-Saharan Africa.