Develop Next-Generation HIV Therapies

NIH-funded research led to the development of combination antiretroviral therapy (cART), which has prevented many HIV-related deaths. cART suppresses HIV replication, thus reducing damage to the immune system. It also slows the progression of HIV infection to AIDS and reduces HIV-related infections and cancers, as well as metabolic and neurologic complications.

Treatment Challenges to Overcome

Despite cART’s benefits, only about half of the 37 million people with HIV (PWH) worldwide receive treatment. Several factors prevent people from beginning and continuing treatment. These factors include the high cost, the need for daily treatment, the possibility of interactions with other drugs, and the potential for drug resistance and/or adverse events. Unequal access to treatment also reduces health outcomes across race, ethnicity, sex and gender, age, and socioeconomic status.

Research to Improve Treatment

The NIH funds research to develop treatments that are longer-acting, less toxic, and have fewer side effects and complications. Longer-acting treatments currently being developed include monthly injections of continuously released cART, anti-HIV antibody infusions, and a 6-month cART implant. Simpler treatment schedules could help people adhere to—or stay on—treatment. Additionally, an estimated 10 percent of people receiving cART worldwide are resistant to at least one of its drugs1. New treatments currently being studied have been shown to suppress viral replication for PWH with resistance to all known antiretroviral drugs. These treatments also may reverse the weakening of the immune system that occurs even when the virus is suppressed.

The NIH partners with industry, academia, and other research organizations to support basic and clinical research to quickly identify infection, measure treatment success, and determine drug resistance. Epidemiological research supported by the NIH also can inform treatment strategies and improve health outcomes.

Research to Increase Uptake and Adherence

The NIH supports behavioral and social sciences research (BSSR) to understand and address inequalities in treatment uptake and adherence, and to improve current and next-generation therapies. Biomedical, behavioral, and implementation approaches can be combined to improve viral suppression, reduce HIV transmission, and improve health for all affected populations.


1 World Health Organization. HIV Drug Resistance Report 2017. Available at:

This page last reviewed on August 9, 2018