HIV Vaccines

Content From: HIV.govUpdated: May 22, 20244 min read


Is There a Vaccine to Prevent HIV?

No. There is currently no vaccine available that will prevent HIV infection.

However, scientists around the world, with support from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), are working to develop one. Some of the areas being studied include:

  • Whether a preventive vaccine protects people from getting HIV.
  • Whether preventive vaccines are safe.
  • Whether a preventive vaccine controls HIV if a person gets HIV while enrolled in a study. (It is possible for someone to get HIV through sexual contact or from sharing drug injection equipment while they are participating in a clinical trial. But a person cannot get HIV from the HIV vaccine being tested.)
  • What immune responses occur in people who receive a preventive vaccine.
  • Different ways of giving preventive vaccines, such as using a needle and syringe versus a needle-free device.

WATCH: Louis Shackelford, MPH, of the HIV Vaccine Trials Network and NIAID’s Dr. Carl Dieffenbach discuss the latest in HIV vaccine research.

READ NIAID's 2024 HIV Vaccine Awareness Day blog post.

What Are Vaccines and What Do They Do?

Vaccines play an important role in keeping us healthy. They protect us from serious and sometimes deadly diseases.

Vaccines are products made from very small parts of weak or dead germs (such as viruses, bacteria, or toxins) that can cause diseases. They help your immune system fight infections faster and more effectively.

When you get a vaccine, it teaches your immune system to recognize and clear those germs, helping your body remember and fight them off if you get exposed to them in the future. And since vaccines are not made of infectious germs, they won’t make you sick.

Vaccines are usually administered by a shot, but sometimes can be administered by mouth or nasal spray. They are widely used to prevent diseases like polio, chicken pox, measles, mumps, rubella, influenza (flu), hepatitis A and B, and human papillomavirus (HPV).

Learn more about how vaccines protect you and others.

Why Do We Need a Vaccine to Prevent HIV?

Developing a safe, effective, and affordable preventive HIV vaccine has game-changing potential for controlling and ultimately ending the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

Today, more people with HIV than ever before have access to life-saving treatment with HIV medicines (called antiretroviral therapy or ART), which is good for their health. When people with HIV take HIV medicine as prescribed and get and keep an undetectable viral load, they can live long and healthy lives and will not transmit HIV to their HIV-negative partners through sex. In addition, people without HIV and who are likely to benefit can take pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), HIV medicine used to prevent HIV. Yet, unfortunately, in 2022, an estimated 31,800 new HIV infections occurred in the United States, and in 2022 approximately 1.3 million people newly acquired HIV worldwide. To control and ultimately end HIV globally, we need a powerful array of HIV prevention tools that are widely accessible to all who would benefit from them.

Vaccines historically have been the most effective means to prevent and even eradicate infectious diseases. They safely and cost-effectively prevent illness, disability, and death. Like smallpox and polio vaccines, a preventive HIV vaccine could help save millions of lives. That’s why developing a preventive HIV vaccine has been a pillar of NIH’s scientific mission since the start of the HIV pandemic.

The long-term goal is to develop a safe and effective vaccine that protects people worldwide from acquiring HIV. Even if a vaccine only protects some people who get vaccinated, or even if it provides less than total protection by reducing the risk of getting HIV, it could still have a major impact on the rates of transmission and help control the pandemic, particularly for populations most affected by HIV. A partially effective vaccine could decrease the number of people who acquire HIV, further reducing the number of people who can pass the virus on to others. By substantially reducing the number of people who acquire and transmit HIV, we can stop the epidemic.

Can You Participate in HIV Preventive Vaccine Clinical Trials?

A list of clinical trials on preventive HIV vaccines is available from the database of study summaries. Click on the title of any trial in the list to see more information about the study.

If you are interested in participating in a vaccine study, you can also contact the NIH Vaccine Research Center by calling 866-833-LIFE (5433) or by emailing

HIV Vaccine Trials Network

You can also learn about current HIV vaccine studies and opportunities to participate from the NIH-supported HIV Vaccine Trials NetworkExit Disclaimer.