Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a virus that attacks the immune system. Without treatment, HIV causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). HIV is transmitted sexually, by blood-to-blood contact including through injecting drug use, and from mother to child.

Globally, almost 37 million people are living with HIV, however, only 51 per cent are aware of their HIV status. In Australia, there were 25,313 people living with HIV in 2015, with 10 per cent unaware of their status.

In the lab, our researchers are searching for cures, vaccines and ways to manipulate cells to reduce the impact the virus has on the body.

Global clinical trials led by the Kirby Institute have been instrumental in developing the range of HIV drugs now available and determining the best way to use them in clinical practice. We continue to develop new ways that we can optimise treatment for people living with HIV, reduce the impact of long term HIV complications including cancer and cardiovascular disease, and to improve both access to and affordability of HIV medication. Within our region, we work in partnership with research teams in Cambodia, Indonesia ,Thailand, Papua New Guinea and Myanmar to strengthen local research capacity, monitor the impact of interventions and to design and test new interventions – all aimed at reducing the impact of HIV in the region.

In Australia, we are conducting trials into new prevention approaches, like pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), and we conduct extensive behavioural research in order to better understand the social realities and contexts that shape our HIV epidemic. We maintain strong ties with the communities that are most affected by HIV in Australia: people living with HIV, gay men and other men who have sex with men, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations, and people who inject drugs.

For 20 years, we have produced the national Annual Surveillance Reports for the Australian Government Department of Health. These reports monitor and analyse Australian trends in HIV and other sexually transmissible infections and blood-borne viruses. This provides essential data which allows us to minimise the impact of epidemics on affected communities, to improve health services and to inform and evaluate public health interventions.

Our HIV research strengths


HIV researchers   HIV projects