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The Start Free Challenge

Challenge Summary

This challenge is seeking replicable innovations at a local level which can speed up the progress being made to reach the super-fast-track target to reduce new HIV infections in children to less than 40,000 by 2018 and 20,000 by 2020. 

Challenge Status: Open for concept notes 7th December

Challenge Close: Concept note deadline: 23:59 GMT 15th February, Full Application deadline: 23:59 GMT 29th March

Prize amount: $100,000 to be divided between up to 4 winners*


In Collaboration With: UNAIDS

The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) leads and inspires the world to achieve its shared vision of zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths. 

UNAIDS unites the efforts of 11 UN organizations—UNHCR, UNICEF, WFP, UNDP, UNFPA, UNODC, UN Women, ILO, UNESCO, WHO and the World Bank—and works closely with global and national partners towards ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Learn more at and connect with UNAIDS on FacebookTwitterInstagram and YouTube.


Every child deserves an HIV-free beginning. In recent years, there has been considerable progress in reducing the number of new HIV infections in children, with a 70% decline from 490,000 in 2000 to 150,000 in 2015. But 150,000 new infections is still far too many, it equates to 400 children becoming newly infected with HIV each day. Some areas are worse affected than others: 110,000 of these new infections were in 21 of the highest burden countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. 

The Global Plan, launched in 2011, aimed to reduce new HIV infections in children by 90% by 2015. While some countries saw great progress over this time (seven reduced new HIV infections among children by more than 70%), others saw much smaller reductions. Overall, The Global Plan helped to drive a 60% reduction in new HIV infections among children.

Start Free Stay Free AIDS Free, launched by PEPFAR and UNAIDS in 2016, aims to accelerate progress towards reaching the ambitious agenda to end AIDS among children, adolescents and young women. It includes the super-fast-track target of reducing the number of children newly infected to less than 40,000 by 2018 and 20,000 by 2020.


The Challenge

New infections in children can be reduced if they and their mothers have timely access to antiretroviral drugs, infant prophylaxis and early infant diagnosis.  

We are looking for innovations which can be implemented across resource-limited settings to speed up the progress made towards reaching the super-fast-track targets.

As well as the usual Challenge criteria, the innovation must demonstrate that it has the following attributes:

  • It demonstrates how clinics are collaborating with communities to provide a comprehensive response including reaching hard to reach families and those not accessing care
  • It is making progress towards reaching the super-fast track 95-95-95 targets, including baseline (within 3 years and current)
  • It can be replicated elsewhere
  • It is sustainable 

Challenge statement: identify replicable innovations at a local level which can speed up the progress being made to reach the super-fast-track target to reduce new HIV infections in children to less than 40,000 by 2018 and 20,000 by 2020.


*The final prize amounts will be determined by the Judges


  • People Centred: Entries may focus on a process, technology or other method but the ultimate benefit must be measurable in terms of impact on people’s lives. Must ensure privacy, demonstrate an ability to not perpetuate stigma and discrimination associated with HIV and enhance active community participation in solution development.
  • Replicable: Entries can be replicated and adapted by others at low cost to ensure broader implementation and uptake as quickly as possible in similar settings.
  • Scalable: Entries must demonstrate how they can be scaled beyond pilot programmes to large scale responses that can be implemented at greater/national scale.
  • Affordable: Entries must demonstrate affordability (low-cost or no-cost to the end users) within resource limited settings or other similar settings as detailed in the individual challenges.
  • Sustainable: Entries must demonstrate how they are implementable in the longer term (beyond the lifecycle of prize funding) using the resources that already exist or which can be incremental to existing service delivery.
  • Achieving substantive change: Successful entries are expected to change the thoughts, processes and other barriers that prevent people living in resource limited settings from receiving the best care possible within the resources (financial and other) available, demonstrating a clear benefit to the people and systems targeted.



Executive Director, International AIDS Society, Geneva; IAS non-voting Governing Council member; IAS non-voting Executive Committee officer.


Senior Programme Manager, International Development and UK Prizes, Centre for Challenge Prizes, Nesta, London.


Divison Chief: Applied Innovation, U.S. Global Development Lab, USAID


Director of Business Development, Digital Catapult Centre

(picture coming soon) 


Director, Vodafone Group Foundation






    Click APPLY NOW to access the PAC Community portal where you can register or log in to start an application. Once registered you can connect with fellow solvers to share ideas, find collaborators and work on applications.
    Submit a Concept Note to provide a summary of your innovation. You can seek input/feedback from other community members or submit right away. Concepts are shortlisted to progress to the next stage by the PAC team based on the challenge criteria.
    The best eligible Concept Notes are invited to submit a Full Application. This stage requires more detail about the development and implementation of your innovation. This is the final stage for applicants before the judging process begins.

For more detail, see How it Works.