HIV Vaccine Research and Development

A Researcher Performs Vaccine Research in His Lab
Vanessa Vick

“And if we are ever going to eradicate HIV/AIDS, it is going to be through the deployment of an AIDS vaccine.”

Dr. Rajiv Shah
USAID Administrator
December 8, 2010

The HIV pandemic continues to impose a global burden, especially on developing countries. Viral infectious diseases are most effectively controlled – some even eradicated – through prevention programs that include a vaccine. No single approach to HIV prevention is likely to have a dramatic impact on its own. Integrated approaches to HIV prevention, detection and management that are tailored to specific populations yield the best results. Reversing the course of this pandemic will require carefully combined behavioral and biomedical strategies to prevent HIV. A safe and effective HIV vaccine will significantly advance successful prevention strategies to first control the HIV pandemic, eventually ending AIDS.

USAID Support of an HIV Vaccine

A clinician meets routinely with a clinical trial volunteer to collect data and evaluate health status.
Clinicians at the Kenya AIDS Vaccine Initiative meet routinely with clinical trial volunteers to collect data and evaluate health status.
Sokomoto Photography

USAID agrees that one of the most critically important tools to control the HIV pandemic will be a safe and effective HIV vaccine. USAID began supporting research and development (R&D) of an HIV vaccine in 2001. The Agency's investments have enabled important discoveries for the HIV vaccine field and have built capacity for clinical research in the regions hardest hit by the epidemic. As the brief history that follows describes, supporting the pursuit of this biomedical tool to prevent HIV is a priority within the scope of the Office of HIV and AIDS' efforts.

Since 2001, USAID has had a productive partnership with the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI). IAVI's mission is to accelerate the development of HIV vaccines appropriate for use throughout the world and to ensure that once a vaccine is developed, it is widely available and accessible in as short a time as possible.


Expected Results from USAID's Partnership with IAVI

  • Accelerate the development and clinical testing of novel vaccine candidates by leveraging IAVI’s translational capacity
  • Strengthen scientific and clinical research capacity in developing countries
  • Develop novel vaccines through applied research
  • Strengthen the global environment for AIDS vaccine development and future access

“Achieving an AIDS-free generation is a shared responsibility and it is going to be a shared accomplishment.”

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Remarks at the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief 10th Anniversary Celebration
June 2013

African Leadership of Protocols C and G

  1. Funded by PEPFAR through USAID, Protocol C and Protocol G [PDF, 570KB] are two studies conducted by the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) and its African Clinical Research Center partners. Both studies collected blood samples from HIV-at-risk African volunteers, resulting in nearly 30,000 samples collectively, many of which were shared broadly with scientific collaborators across the world.
  2. Protocol C improved understanding of the progression and distribution of HIV infection across different African countries, shedding light on variances by sex, genetics, HIV subtype, while characterizing viral replicative capacity and its impact on disease course.  Protocol G was instrumental in identifying hundreds of new broadly neutralizing antibodies, which can be used to inform the design future HIV vaccine candidates.
  3. USAID and IAVI are ensuring that the African communities most affected by HIV are actively engaged in all stages of HIV vaccine research from the bench where candidate vaccines are designed, to the clinic where they are tested.
Photo of young girls in India watching a play about adult being encouraged to get tested for HIV.
YRG Care, a premiere HIV referral center in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India, actively educates communities about HIV vaccine research in many venues.

USAID’s Priorities for HIV Vaccine Research

Embracing innovation, science, technology and research to improve health and development outcomes is central to guiding USAID's development strategy. There is a critical need for the development of new global health technologies to ensure a sustainable response to tackling our toughest health and development challenges. USAID is engaged as a key participant in the discovery of truly game-changing biomedical tools to stem the tide of HIV and AIDS; a vaccine to prevent new HIV infections is just one example. USAID places particular emphasis on leaving a footprint of value on the communities that participate in the trials that test new tools to improve global health through sustainable clinical research capacity.

The Agency's priorities toward the discovery of a vaccine to control HIV include:

  • To provide long-term support toward the discovery of an HIV vaccine through robust Research & Development programs that are well-integrated with USAID's larger development agenda while delivering value for the investment of the American people.
  • To effectively engage developing country field sites in vaccine testing, resulting in individual and institutional capacity building, through epidemiological, clinical, laboratory, advocacy, policy and community outreach efforts.
  • Ensure a portfolio that is complementary to efforts by other stakeholders in the field and provides unique or added value while building strong partnerships with research institutions around the world that conduct the basic, epidemiological and clinical science vital to HIV vaccine development.
  • To integrate this innovative scientific endeavor with the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) where and when appropriate.


A group meets to discuss health issues at a community advisory board meeting
This Community Advisory Board in Kangemi, Kenya, meets on a monthly basis to discuss community perceptions with researchers and provide insight into issues such as recruitment and community outreach.
Sokomoto Photography

“…it is hard to grapple with the reality that we fight over the numbers we do when it comes to supporting something like an AIDS vaccine.”

Dr. Rajiv Shah
USAID Administrator
December 8, 2010

At USAID, our eyes are fixed on the potential for new technologies to help us avert new infections, enabling a real shift in the pandemic. Key scientific advances in defining how the human immune system may protect itself against HIV are driving the discovery of an effective vaccine which will be needed to accomplish an AIDS-free generation. An HIV vaccine could save millions of lives and billions of dollars in care and treatment costs. The scientific search for this promising HIV prevention tool must be sustained despite the distinct challenge of developing and introducing such a product. USAID sees it as a priority to continue supporting this area of research, as a part of a broad and robust response to achieving the end of AIDS.

“An effective HIV vaccine will be a seriously wonderful tool in the endeavor to end AIDS, and frankly, I don’t see it happening without one.”

Margaret M. McCluskey, RN, MPH
Senior Technical Advisor for HIV Vaccines
USAID Office of HIV & AIDS


Last updated: February 23, 2016

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