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HIV Overview

HIV/AIDS Clinical Trials

(Last updated 9/27/2013; last reviewed 9/27/2013)

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Key Points

  • HIV/AIDS clinical trials are research studies done to look at new ways to prevent, detect, or treat HIV/AIDS. Clinical trials are the fastest way to determine if new medical approaches to HIV/AIDS are safe and effective in people.
  • Examples of HIV/AIDS clinical trials under way include studies of new HIV medicines, studies of vaccines to prevent and treat HIV, and studies of medicines to treat infections related to HIV.
  • The benefits and possible risks of participating in an HIV/AIDS clinical trial are explained to study volunteers before they decide whether to participate in a study.
  • Use the AIDSinfo clinical trial search to find HIV/AIDS studies looking for volunteer participants. Some HIV/AIDS clinical trials enroll only people infected with HIV. Other studies enroll people who aren’t infected with HIV.

What is a clinical trial?

A clinical trial is a research study done to evaluate new medical approaches in people. New approaches can include:

  • new medicines or new combinations of medicines
  • new surgical procedures or devices
  • new ways to use an existing medicine or device

Clinical trials are the fastest way to determine if new medical approaches are safe and effective in people.

What is an HIV/AIDS clinical trial?

HIV/AIDS clinical trials help researchers find better ways to prevent, detect, or treat HIV/AIDS. All the medicines used to treat HIV/AIDS in the United States were first studied in clinical trials. 

Examples of HIV/AIDS clinical trials under way include:

  • studies of new medicines to treat HIV
  • studies of vaccines to prevent and treat HIV
  • studies of medicines to treat infections related to HIV

Can anyone participate in an HIV/AIDS clinical trial?

It depends on the needs of the study. Some HIV/AIDS clinical trials enroll only people infected with HIV. Other studies include people who aren’t infected with HIV.

Other factors such as age, gender, HIV treatment history, or other medical conditions may also restrict who can participate in an HIV/AIDS clinical trial.

What are the benefits of participating in an HIV/AIDS clinical trial?

Participating in an HIV/AIDS clinical trial can provide benefits. For example, many people participate in HIV/AIDS clinical trials because they want to contribute to HIV/AIDS research. They may have HIV or know somebody who is infected with HIV.

People with HIV who participate in an HIV/AIDS clinical trial may benefit from new HIV medicines before they are widely available. They can also receive regular and careful medical care from a research team that includes doctors and other health professionals. Often the medicines and medical care are free of charge.

Sometimes people get paid for participating in a clinical trial. For example, they may receive money or a gift card. They may be reimbursed for the cost of meals or transportation.

Are HIV/AIDS clinical trials safe?

Researchers try to make HIV/AIDS clinical trials as safe as possible. However, volunteering to participate in a study that is testing an experimental treatment for HIV can involve risks of varying degrees. Risks can include unpleasant, serious, or even life-threatening side effects from the treatment being studied. 

In a process called informed consent, study volunteers are informed of the possible risks and benefits of a clinical trial. Understanding the risks and benefits helps volunteers decide whether to participate in the study.

If I decide to participate in a clinical trial, will my personal information be shared?

The privacy of study volunteers is important to everyone involved in an HIV/AIDS clinical trial. The informed consent process includes an explanation of how a study volunteer’s personal information is protected.

How can I find an HIV/AIDS trial in which to participate?

To find an HIV/AIDS clinical trial looking for volunteers, use the AIDSinfo clinical trial search. For help with your search, call an AIDSinfo health information specialist at 1-800-448-0440 or e-mail contactus@aidsinfo.nih.gov. 

This fact sheet is based on information from the following sources: