The National Institutes of Health (NIH) supports research that cuts across multiple NIH HIV/AIDS research priorities.
Basic research provides the underpinning for HIV science in all priority areas. It also may identify gaps and emerging areas where additional work can improve our understanding of how HIV develops and is transmitted. Specific areas of study include:
- How HIV affects the immune system and causes chronic inflammation
- The influence that an individual’s microbiota has on HIV treatments
- The role of genetics in whether a person is likely to become infected with HIV and how the disease progresses in an infected individual
- Immune system responses that may prevent HIV disease or make it progress more quickly
- Prevention and disease outcomes
Behavioral and Social Sciences Research
Behavioral and social sciences research (BSSR) cuts across all NIH HIV/AIDS research priorities. The NIH supports BSSR to better understand and address the behavioral factors and social contexts that impact HIV prevention, care, treatment, and cure. These include facilitating uptake of testing and counseling, developing technology-based interventions that increase viral suppression, reducing HIV/ AIDS-related stigma, and addressing other sociobehavioral and structural barriers. This research is utilizing such approaches as multi-level analysis; mathematical modeling; geospatial analytics and ecological momentary assessments; social network analysis; and measurement of social and structural determinants. Research is also undertaken to develop new methods to study individual, interpersonal, social, and systemic factors as they relate across the NIH HIV/AIDS research priorities.
The NIH supports research to understand the HIV epidemic at the population level and develop strategies to prevent, identify, treat, and cure HIV. Current research, for example, focuses on the social factors that have led to higher rates of HIV infection in the American South and Midwest, including a recent outbreak in Indiana related to the use of injection drugs. Because of the increased use of opioids in the United States, the NIH is supporting work to detect HIV infection clusters and prevent further outbreaks.
Implementation Science Research
The NIH supports research to improve the delivery of HIV-related services. Implementation science helps identify factors which are barriers to or can help facilitate effective health care programming and policy development. This knowledge helps create and implement new evidence-based practices and strategies that improve public health.
Timely dissemination—or sharing—of HIV research findings among researchers, health care providers, policymakers, people with HIV, affected communities, and the public is essential to making progress in the prevention and treatment of HIV. The NIH considers the information needs of different audiences, including levels of health literacy and how they access information. The NIH also ensures that health information is socially and culturally sensitive and responsive to community needs.
The NIH supports new initiatives to disseminate HIV research findings and to recruit hard-to-reach populations and individuals to participate in clinical studies. The NIH also sponsors the development and distribution of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services HIV/AIDS Treatment and Prevention Guidelines, which are used by clinicians in the United States and around the world.
Research to Reduce Health Disparities
The NIH is supporting research to address disparities—the differences that some populations experience in HIV prevention, incidence, and treatment. Some groups remain more affected by HIV because of disparities due to their race, ethnicity, sex and gender, age, geography, socioeconomic status or other factors. Young people, ages 15 to 24 years, often do not know their HIV status and are less likely to receive HIV care and treatment. Through research, the NIH seeks to define and address the biologic, genetic, epidemiologic, behavioral, and systemic factors that contribute to these differing health outcomes.
Training, Infrastructure, and Capacity Building
The NIH supports training for the biomedical, behavioral, and social science professionals needed to conduct high-priority HIV/AIDS research. The NIH also provides support to investigators by funding equipment, facilitating the sharing of instruments, and providing tissue and specimen repositories.