Supporting Research to Effectively Prevent, Diagnose, and Treat HIV
In the three decades since the first cases of AIDS were reported, Federal investments in basic, biomedical, behavioral, and social science research have led to numerous HIV prevention interventions and life-saving treatment.
Leading the Way in HIV Research
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is the global leader in research to understand, prevent, diagnose, and treat HIV infection and its many associated conditions. NIH-funded researchers—in partnership with academia and the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries—have helped develop, test, and demonstrate the efficacy of more than 30 life-saving antiretroviral drugs and drug combinations for treating HIV infection. These antiretroviral drugs have transformed life with HIV infection for those who have access to and can tolerate treatment.
NIH has also supported other ground-breaking research, including the HPTN 052 study—called the scientific breakthrough of 2011 by Science magazine—which demonstrated that early treatment for HIV reduces the risk of HIV transmission to uninfected sexual partners by 96 percent while simultaneously improving health outcomes for people living with HIV. In addition, the NIH-supported START trial demonstrated that those with HIV who received immediate treatment significantly reduced their risk of illness and death.
Other key areas of NIH-supported research include studies to better understand the basic biology of HIV and the body’s immune response to HIV infection; design, develop, and test potential drugs for the prevention and treatment of HIV and its associated coinfections, comorbidities, and other complications; develop HIV cure strategies to control and eliminate the viral reservoir; and advance new HIV testing strategies and diagnostic tools. NIH also conducts and supports research on the development of new, effective, and affordable biomedical prevention strategies, such as the use of antiretroviral drugs and other agents for prevention; the development of safe, effective, and affordable HIV vaccines that can be used in combination with other prevention strategies; and strategies to better understand and address the risk behaviors and social contexts that can facilitate HIV transmission, acquisition, and disease progression.
Seeking a Cure for HIV
Research to find a cure for HIV/AIDS is also one of NIH’s overarching HIV/AIDS research priorities. In 2013, President Obama announced that NIH would redirect $100 million to launch an HIV Cure Initiative to further advance HIV/AIDS research with the hope of catalyzing a new generation of therapies aimed at curing HIV or inducing lifelong remission. HIV cure research includes studies to identify the precise locations where HIV hides in the body (known as viral reservoirs), to determine how those reservoirs are established and maintained, and to develop strategies to minimize or deplete them. It also includes studies to develop a functional cure whereby the virus would not eliminated, but controlled and suppressed.
Research to Prevent HIV Infection and Transmission
With the ultimate goal of ending the HIV/AIDS pandemic as we know it, NIH continually develops and supports the research infrastructure and scientific expertise needed to enable innovative approaches aimed at halting the spread of HIV through effective and acceptable prevention strategies and a safe and effective vaccine.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also provides national leadership for HIV prevention research, including the development of biomedical and behavioral interventions to prevent HIV transmission and reduce disease progression in the United States and internationally. CDC’s research efforts include identifying scientifically proven, cost-effective, and scalable interventions and prevention strategies to be implemented as part of a high-impact prevention approach for maximal impact on the HIV epidemic.
Advancing the National HIV Priorities through Research
The National HIV/AIDS Strategy: Updated to 2020 calls for numerous ongoing research efforts, including the prioritization and promotion of research to fill in gaps in prevention science among the highest risk populations and communities; the promotion and prioritization of research to fill in gaps in knowledge along the HIV care continuum; the scaling up of effective, evidence-based programs that address social determinants of health; support for research to better understand the scope of the intersection of HIV and violence against women and girls, as well as the development of effective interventions; and the strengthening of the timely availability and use of data. Across the Federal government, agencies and programs are engaged in these efforts.
Scroll down to read about the HIV research activities of individual agencies and offices.