HIV, or human immunodeficiency virus, is the virus that causes AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome). HIV attacks the immune system by destroying CD4 positive (CD4+) T cells, a type of white blood cell that is vital to fighting off infection. The destruction of these cells leaves people living with HIV vulnerable to other infections, diseases and other complications. As the leading U.S. government institute for HIV/AIDS research, NIAID is committed to conducting the research necessary to successfully end the fight against HIV/AIDS. 

Why Is the Study of HIV/AIDS a Priority for NIAID?

Nearly 37 million people are living with HIV around the world. In the United States, 1.2 million people are living with HIV, of whom 13 percent are unaware of their diagnosis. Although progress has been made in the global fight against HIV/AIDS, the epidemic continues in the United States and the international community. Globally, AIDS-related deaths have dropped by 45 percent since their peak in 2004. Yet the rate of HIV transmission remains unacceptably high, with 2.1 million new infections occurring worldwide in 2015 alone.

How Is NIAID Addressing This Critical Topic?

NIAID-supported investigators are conducting an abundance of research on all areas of HIV infection, including developing and testing preventive HIV vaccines, prevention strategies, and new treatments for HIV infection and AIDS-associated opportunistic infections. Through laboratories and clinics on the National Institutes of Health campus in Bethesda, Maryland, and a vast network of supported research at universities, medical centers, and clinical trial sites around the globe, NIAID is working to better understand HIV and how it causes disease, find new tools to prevent HIV infection including a preventive vaccine, develop new and more effective treatments for people living with HIV, and hopefully, find a cure.

To learn about risk factors for HIV/AIDS and current prevention and treatment strategies visit the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) HIV/AIDS site.

Scanning electromicrograph of an HIV-infected T cell.
Credit: NIAID

Scanning electromicrograph of an HIV-infected T cell.


Preventing new HIV infections is a key step toward ending the HIV pandemic as we know it. NIAID-supported researchers have worked since the early days of AIDS in the 1980s to identify prevention tools to keep people healthy. Today, an array of prevention methods are available for use in combination or on their own, and scientists continue to work to develop and improve cutting-edge tools and techniques that can work to prevent HIV in diverse populations around the world.

Vaccine Development

Historically, vaccination has been the best method for protecting people from infectious diseases. While an array of techniques are available for preventing HIV infection, the development of a safe and effective HIV vaccine remains key to realizing a durable end to the HIV/AIDS pandemic. NIAID-supported scientists are working toward an HIV vaccine from two complementary angles: an empirical approach that quickly moves vaccine candidates into human testing, and a theoretical approach that designs vaccine candidates based on an understanding of the immune response to HIV infection.


One of NIAID’s greatest success stories is that its research led to the development of numerous antiretroviral drugs to treat HIV/AIDS turning what was once a uniformly fatal disease into a manageable chronic condition for many. NIAID is working to find new and more effective therapeutic products, drug classes, and combinations as well as safe and effective treatments for dangerous AIDS-related co-infections, such as hepatitis, malaria, and tuberculosis.

Finding a Cure

NIAID is exploring therapies that suppress the amount of HIV to such low levels that an HIV-infected person would no longer need treatment because his or her immune system could keep the remaining virus in check, creating in essence a “functional cure.”

Clinical Trials

NIAID and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) conduct ongoing clinical research on HIV infection and other immunological disorders. Read more about the active clinical trials below:

What's New: 

For Researchers: 

Funding Opportunities

NIAID is funding research on an abundance of HIV-related research including developing and testing preventive HIV vaccines, prevention strategies, and new treatments for HIV infection and AIDS-associated opportunistic infections.

Latest Funding Opportunities:

Pilot Clinical Trials to Eliminate the Latent HIV Reservoir, U01

Optimization of Monoclonal Antibodies for Eliminating the HIV Reservoir (R01)

Eradication of HIV-1 from Central Nervous System Reservoirs, R01

Tools, Datasets, & Services

NIAID offers resources such as technology for licensing or collaboration, computer applications, and other tools and services developed in its labs to the general scientific community for the advancement of biomedical research.

Networks & Collaborations

NIAID encourages partnerships among other agencies and foundations, private industry, federal and local government and other organizations with similar goals to help build and sustain research infrastructure and to translate and implement research findings as public health practices.

Such partnerships ensure that the research will lead to findings that are ultimately feasible and meaningful for impacted communities. NIAID is deeply committed to local and international research collaboration that are mutually beneficial and scientifically productive.

Content last reviewed on March 22, 2017