Building a successful combination prevention program requires understanding the community's local epidemiological profile, the social community norms that shape vulnerability to HIV and access to care, and the available community resources. We carried out a situational analysis in order to shape a comprehensive HIV prevention program that address local barriers to care at multiple contextual levels in the North West Province of South Africa.The situational analysis was conducted in two sub-districts in 2012 and guided by an adaptation of WHO's Strategic Approach, a predominantly qualitative method, including observation of service delivery points and in-depth interviews and focus groups with local leaders, providers, and community members, in order to recommend context-specific HIV prevention strategies. Analysis began during fieldwork with nightly discussions of findings and continued with coding original textual data from the fieldwork notebooks and a select number of recorded interviews.We conducted over 200 individual and group interviews and gleaned four principal social barriers to HIV prevention and care, including: HIV fatalism, traditional gender norms, HIV-related stigma, and challenges with communication around HIV, all of which fuel the HIV epidemic. At the different levels of response needed to stem the epidemic, we found evidence of national policies and programs that are mitigating the social risk factors but little community-based responses that address social risk factors to HIV.Understanding social and structural barriers to care helped shape our comprehensive HIV prevention program, which address the four 'themes' identified into each component of the program. Activities are underway to engage communities, offer community-based testing in high transmission areas, community stigma reduction, and a positive health, dignity and prevention program for stigma reduction and improve communication skills. The situational analysis process successfully shaped key programmatic decisions and cultivated a deeper collaboration with local stakeholders to support program implementation.