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NIH Office of AIDS Research: 35 Years of Advancing HIV Research

NIH OAR 35 years

In 1988, Congress established the Office of AIDS Research (OAR) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to coordinate research to fight the AIDS epidemic. OAR has forged collaborations with NIH Institutes, Centers, and Offices (ICOs), federal agencies, clinicians, researchers, and community partners to ensure that NIH HIV and AIDS funding is directed at the highest priority research areas. From basic science to implementation research, NIH HIV research has contributed to groundbreaking innovations in HIV prevention, treatment, and cure. The year 2023 marks 35 years of this multi-institute, interdisciplinary, and global HIV research program that has helped to transform HIV from a once-fatal disease into a manageable chronic condition for those with access to treatment and services.

  • In the 1980s, the average life expectancy for an individual with AIDS was three years after diagnosis. NIH research led to the development of antiretroviral therapy (ART) to prevent people with HIV from developing AIDS, resulting in a near normal life expectancy with viral suppression.
  • In the 1990s, NIH clinical research on treatment for HIV testing and interventions has resulted in a more than 90% decrease in the number of children with perinatally acquired HIV in the United States.
  • In the 2000s, NIH research confirmed that people with HIV who achieve and maintain undetectable levels of HIV in their blood (measured as viral load) cannot sexually transmit the virus to others. This is the foundation of our understanding that “Undetectable Equals Untransmittable” (U=U).

Despite this progress, much work remains. Ongoing support for HIV and AIDS research is needed to advance scientific progress, enhance partnerships, and address critical research and implementation opportunities to end the HIV pandemic.

Learn more about OAR’s history, organization, NIH’s impact on HIV, and overall progress against HIV and AIDS, with additional details in our Director’s Blog entry on OAR’s 35th anniversary.

circle of hands holding red ribbons

Looking to the Future 

As science advances and community needs change, NIH HIV research priorities evolve. There is an increased need, for example, to focus on older adults with HIV because effective HIV treatment has extended the lifespan for people with HIV. Today, OAR has four signature programs that reflect cross-cutting, forward-thinking areas of research. 

Image representing this research priorities: early career investigators, HIV and aging, HIV and women, and technology for HIV research

Early Career Investigators 

  • Increase the number and diversity of HIV ECIs 
  • Provide career development resources and opportunities for the next generation of HIV investigators 

HIV and Aging 

  • Catalyze interdisciplinary research and training to promote healthy aging 
  • Focus on biomedical, behavioral, social needs of HIV and older adults
  • Leverage federal and community partnerships

HIV and Women 

  • Promote health for all women living with or at risk for HIV acquisition 
  • Support career development for women in HIV research Technology for HIV Research 
  • Apply cutting-edge technology developments to HIV

Technology for HIV Research

  • Apply cutting-edge technology developments to HIV

Fact Sheet

Click the image below to view/download a PDF and learn more about the NIH Office of AIDS Research.

Image of Fact Sheet first page, click to download accessible PDF


This page last reviewed on May 4, 2023