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HIV/AIDS Clinical Trials

Last Reviewed: July 3, 2019

Key Points

  • A clinical trial is a research study done to evaluate new medical approaches in people. HIV/AIDS clinical trials help researchers find better ways to prevent, detect, or treat HIV/AIDS.
  • Examples of HIV/AIDS clinical trials underway include studies of new HIV medicines, studies of vaccines to prevent or 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 who have HIV. Other studies enroll people who don’t have 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 medical devices or surgical procedures
  • new ways to use an existing medicine or device
  • new ways to change behaviors to improve health

Clinical trials are conducted to determine whether 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. For example, all of the medicines used to treat HIV/AIDS in the United States were first studied in clinical trials. 

Examples of HIV/AIDS clinical trials underway include:

  • studies of new medicines to prevent or treat HIV
  • studies of vaccines to prevent or treat HIV
  • studies of medicines to treat infections related to HIV
All the medicines used to treat HIV/AIDS in the United States were first studied in clinical trials.

Can anyone participate in an HIV/AIDS clinical trial?

It depends on the study. Some HIV/AIDS clinical trials enroll only people who have HIV. Other studies include people who don’t have HIV.

Participation in an HIV/AIDS clinical trial may also depend on other factors such as age, gender, HIV treatment history, or other medical conditions.

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 someone who has HIV.

People with HIV who participate in an HIV/AIDS clinical trial may benefit from new HIV medicines before they are widely available. HIV medicines being studied in clinical trials are called investigational drugs. To learn more, read the AIDSinfo What is an Investigational HIV Drug? fact sheet.

Participants in clinical trials can 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. 

Before enrolling in a clinical trial, potential volunteers learn about the study in a process called informed consent. The process includes an explanation of the possible risks and benefits of participating in the study.

Once enrolled in a study, people continue to receive information about the study through the informed consent process.

If I decide to participate in an HIV/AIDS 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 clinical trial looking for volunteer participants?

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 email ContactUs@aidsinfo.nih.gov.


Clinical trial objects around AIDSinfo

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

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