Introduction Developing guidelines to inform the use of antiretroviral pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for HIV prevention in resource-limited settings must necessarily be informed by considering the resources and infrastructure needed for PrEP delivery. We describe an approach that identifies subpopulations of cisgender men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender women (TGW) to prioritize for the rollout of PrEP in resource-limited settings. Methods We use data from the iPrEx study, a multi-national phase III study of PrEP for HIV prevention in MSM/TGW, to build statistical models that identify subpopulations at high risk of HIV acquisition without PrEP, and with high expected PrEP benefit. We then evaluate empirically the population impact of policies recommending PrEP to these subpopulations, and contrast these with existing policies. Results A policy recommending PrEP to a high risk subpopulation of MSM/TGW reporting condomless receptive anal intercourse over the last 3 months (estimated 3.3% 1-year HIV incidence) yields an estimated 1.95% absolute reduction in 1-year HIV incidence at the population level, and 3.83% reduction over 2 years. Importantly, such a policy requires rolling PrEP out to just 59.7% of MSM/TGW in the iPrEx population. We find that this policy is identical to that which prioritizes MSM/TGW with high expected PrEP benefit. It is estimated to achieve nearly the same reduction in HIV incidence as the PrEP guideline put forth by the US Centers for Disease Control, which relies on the measurement of more behavioral risk factors and which would recommend PrEP to a larger subset of the MSM/TGW population (86% vs. 60%). Conclusions These findings may be used to focus future mathematical modelling studies of PrEP in resource-limited settings on prioritizing PrEP for high-risk subpopulations of MSM/TGW. The statistical approach we took could be employed to develop PrEP policies for other at-risk populations and resource-limited settings.