NIH Issues Guidelines for HIV/AIDS Research Priorities

In August, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) released a Notice, NIH HIV/AIDS Research Priorities and Guidelines for Determining AIDS Funding (NOT-OD-15-137), outlining its overarching HIV/AIDS research priorities along with the guidelines the agency will use to determine AIDS funding for the next three to five years beginning in fiscal year (FY) 2016 (see related story).  NIH’s Office of AIDS Research (OAR) is legislatively mandated to coordinate, plan, evaluate, and budget for the agency’s AIDS research program (see Update, June 16, 2014).

The notice highlights NIH’s overarching HIV/AIDS research priorities:

  1. Research to reduce the incidence of HIV/AIDS, including the development of safe and effective vaccines;
  2. Development of the next generation of HIV therapies with improved safety and ease of use;
  3. Research towards a cure for HIV/AIDS; and
  4. HIV-associated comorbidities and co-infections.

The cross-cutting areas of basic research, health disparities, and training are also highlighted.

NIH has also developed a series of guidelines for determining whether a research project falls into a high, medium, or low priority for receiving AIDS-designated funding.

Among the high-priority research topics are:

  • Reducing the incidence of HIV/AIDS, including developing, testing, and implementing strategies to improve HIV testing and entry into prevention services;
  • Implementation research to ensure initiation of treatment as soon as diagnosis has been made, retention and engagement in these services, and achievement and maintenance of optimal prevention and treatment responses; and
  • Cross-cutting areas of basic research, health and training, including research to reduce health disparities in the incidence of new HIV infections or in treatment outcomes of those living with HIV/AIDS and research training of the workforce required to conduct high priority HIV/AIDS or HIV/AIDS-related research.

Medium-priority topics may include health and social issues that are clearly linked to HIV (transmission/acquisition, pathogenesis, morbidity and mortality, stigma).

The notice states, however, low-priority topics will not be supported with AIDS-designated funds.  But projects could be eligible for support with non-AIDS funds by an NIH institute or center.  This includes studies of behaviors (e.g., sexual activities, drug use activities) or social conditions that have multiple negative outcomes where HIV/AIDS is one of many outcomes being studies without a focus on HIV/AIDS is unique in that context.

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