After 20 years of focused HIV vaccine research, the development of an effective HIV preventive or therapeutic vaccine remains elusive. With the knowledge that the risk of HIV transmission and disease progression is reduced at low levels of plasma HIV RNA, research derived from the International HIV Controllers Study supports strategies aimed at reducing plasma viremia to those low levels.
Some HIV-positive individuals have been able to maintain virus load levels below the limits of detection for 30 years or longer. These individuals have been characterized in the HIV literature as HIV controllers, elite controllers, and elite suppressors. They have been the main focus of ongoing research that aims to understand host, viral, and immunologic parameters that are associated with effective containment of HIV infection.
To date, many factors have been associated with HIV control, but none of them have been able to fully explain this phenomenon. This consortium was established to support population-based genetic studies that have confirmed the critical role the MHC plays in spontaneous HIV control. In addition, this collaborative effort has allowed the establishment of a large biological specimen repository that supports research in virology, adaptive, and innate immunity. By 2010, the International HIV Controllers Study had identified and enrolled in various studies 1,400 participants who consistently maintained viral loads below 2,000 copies/ml in the absence of antiretroviral therapy.
We believe that HIV controllers can provide key insights for vaccine design. Many lessons can be learned from elucidating the mechanisms behind this phenotype.
For a list of publications that have used subjects from the International HIV Controllers Study see publications and review page. In February 2010, we discontinued the collection of blood samples
This project was originally funded through the Mark and Lisa Schwarz Foundation and subsequently through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the AIDS Healthcare Foundation.