amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research

Research Accomplishments

Research Accomplishments Overview
  • amfAR has incurred the lowest cost for the greatest number of research citations amongst all government, industry and other non-profit funders of HIV/AIDS research1 
  • amfAR ranks 5th among all HIV/AIDS grant-giving agencies around the world (including the U.S. government and Big Pharma) in its total number of research citations1 
  • amfAR researchers obtain between $8 and $11 in subsequent funding for every dollar received from amfAR2, an impressive return on any investment.


Since the start of the epidemic, the work of amfAR-funded researchers has made possible many significant advances in HIV prevention, treatment and care. amfAR pursues an entrepreneurial research strategy, funding highly innovative, scientifically sound studies that often lack the preliminary data required by more traditional grant makers. Below is a selection of major research accomplishments funded by amfAR in several areas of HIV/AIDS research:



  • Development of new HIV treatments, including early studies critical to the development of protease inhibitors; pioneering research that led to the use of antiretroviral drugs to block mother-to-infant HIV transmission; initial identification and characterization of the compound eventually approved for clinical use as Fuzeon
  • Expansion of the range of vaccine concepts, including the first study to demonstrate the potential of a DNA vaccine to slow disease progression
  • Improvement in diagnosis and monitoring of HIV infection, including the development of a technique to detect viral RNA now used in viral load testing
  • Increased understanding of the virus, including the first 3-dimensional images of the virus making initial contact with susceptible cells, which generated information now being used to design new treatments and vaccines; and identification of CCR5 as the critical co-receptor for HIV, spurring the development of CCR5 blockers as new antiretroviral drugs and microbicides



  • Establishment of a Community-Based Clinical Trials (CBCT) Network demonstrating that involving the HIV-infected community in clinical research expands research capacity and expedites the drug approval process. The CBCT Network facilitated the approval of aerosolized pentamidine as a preventive for Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia; rifabutin as a treatment for Mycobacterium avium complex; and the FDA-approved treatment for AZT-induced anemia using erythropoietin. A CBCTN study confirmed that hydroxyurea in combination with ddI is more effective in treating HIV infection than ddI alone in some individuals.
  • First-of-its-kind randomized controlled study comparing two treatments for hepatitis C (HCV) in HIV-infected individuals revealed that combination interferon alfa-2b plus ribavirin is more effective in eliminating HCV than interferon alone.



  • amfAR-funded studies of syringe exchange programs (SEPs) in several cities around the United States showed that these programs reduce HIV transmission by 50% or more among participating injection drug users, without increasing illegal drug use, results that received endorsement from the American Medical Association and The United States Conference of Mayors. Results of amfAR-supported annual national surveys of SEPs are published in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
  • A pilot project evaluated the effectiveness of using physician prescription to provide sterile syringes to injection drug users in a community-clinic setting.
    Support for the evaluation of culturally specific, locally initiated prevention education programs around the United States, as well as in Argentina and Nepal.



  • Asia’s first HIV/AIDS Observational Database (an activity of amfAR’s TREAT Asia initiative) will help to better understand HIV/AIDS in Asia and the Pacific and monitor treatment access and effectiveness, and enable clinical studies of HIV that are specific to patient populations in the region.
  • The first research projects demonstrating that HIV transmission can occur from females to males (in addition to vice versa), and that the presence of other sexually transmitted infections in either partner can increase the risk of HIV transmission.
    Formation of a 17,000-person Observational Database following the course of HIV disease before and after treatment in the United States.


  • amfAR supported studies of the ethical issues surrounding the balance between protection of the public health and respect for individual privacy and freedom, civil liberty issues raised by case reporting and contact tracing, and the use and misuse of HIV antibody testing, resulting in several informative and widely-consulted publications.
  • Major studies to provide information on: the nature and extent of discrimination against people with AIDS; early medical intervention for HIV-positive people; HIV and substance abuse prevention and treatment; long-term care of people with HIV/AIDS; and the costs of financing care for people with HIV/AIDS, to provide legislators and policy makers with the information to enact appropriate laws.

1. From a recent study evaluating the success of amfAR’s research program using the ISI Science Citation Index to identify, for each year, the ten most cited papers in HIV research.

2. According to a mail and telephone study conducted with all researchers who received amfAR funding from 1985 through 1997.