August 12, 2015

Statement on NIH Efforts to Focus Research to End the AIDS Pandemic

Extraordinary progress has been made in HIV/AIDS research over the last 34 years, transforming what was once a terrifying and almost inevitably fatal disease into a treatable disorder. People with HIV/AIDS can now experience an almost normal life expectancy if antiretrovirals are started promptly and continued for life. But the disease remains a significant public health concern, with approximately 50,000 new infections per year in the United States and two million new infections worldwide. The global human and economic costs continue to be staggering.

We are now at a critical juncture in HIV/AIDS research in which new exciting research opportunities are emerging and pointing toward the possibility of ending the pandemic. Hard fought advances in basic and clinical research are raising new hopes for the development of a successful vaccine and even a possible cure. Now more than ever, we need to focus scarce resources on research priorities that will help end the AIDS pandemic in the shortest timeframe possible. With that goal in mind, I have decided to implement several new processes to ensure that NIH’s HIV/AIDS dollars are focused more intensively than ever on the highest priority areas of HIV/AIDS research. To help me do this, an external working group of the NIH Office of AIDS Research (OAR) Advisory Council in coordination with OAR scientific staff and NIH Institutes and Centers, recently developed draft guidelines for defining high priority areas of HIV/AIDS research. With this guidance, my leadership team and I have defined research priorities that are aimed specifically at translating into rapid progress our ability to prevent and cure HIV/AIDS and end the global AIDS pandemic.

The NIH high-priority areas of HIV/AIDS research are those that:

  • aim to reduce the incidence of HIV/AIDS, including the development of safe and effective vaccines
  • develop the next generation of HIV therapies with improved safety and ease of use
  • develop a cure for HIV/AIDS
  • improve prevention or treatment of HIV-associated comorbidities and co-infections
  • support cross-cutting areas of basic research, health disparities, and training

These new high-priority areas are consistent with the key scientific priorities outlined in the OAR Trans-NIH Plan for HIV-Related Research. The guidelines also informed several new processes that NIH will be implementing and applying to all grant awards made in fiscal year 2016 to help ensure that only those research projects within the high priority HIV/AIDS scientific areas are considered for support with precious HIV/AIDS resources. These measures are described in the following NIH Guide Notice.

These steps underscore NIH’s strong commitment to responsible stewardship of the resources we receive from the American people. I am confident that the measures that we are taking will advance and accelerate the worldwide efforts to end the AIDS pandemic.

Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D.
Director, National Institutes of Health