Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)

Image: HIV


Our research in HIV ranges from basic laboratory studies through to clinical research and public health. Led by Sharon Lewin, an infectious diseases physician and basic scientist, this research program has contributed significantly to the understanding of where HIV “hides” in patients on treatment and novel ways to eradicate HIV from infected individuals. Other areas of research include the effect of viral and bacterial co-infections on HIV disease progression, HIV and cardiovascular disease, and the neurological effects of HIV infection of the brain.

HIV Research Areas:

HIV Latency: Understanding where HIV hides

The biggest hurdle in curing HIV infection in an individual is that the virus remains dormant in some populations of cells, hiding from the immune system and the cocktail of antiviral drugs used to treat HIV+ positive patients. This is described as HIV latency and poses a major barrier to HIV eradication in the host.

The following laboratory and clinical research projects are aimed at understanding HIV latency in vitro and in vivo:

Finding a cure for HIV - Histone deacetylase inhibitors and reversing HIV latency

The role of chemokines in HIV latency

HIV latency and regulation of viral life cycle

Disulfiram a dose escalation study - HIV Cure

HIV and co-infections

Co-infections with viral or bacterial pathogens cause significant morbidity in patients with HIV. The following project looks at the complications of HIV/HBV co-infection:

HBV Immunology - HIV co-infection

HIV and Innate Immunity

During chronic HIV infection, the inflammatory responses normally associated with an acute viral infection result in chronic immune activation that involves the innate immune response. This chronic activation is a strong predictor of HIV disease progression.

The following projects are aimed at determining the role of chronic immune activation during HIV infection and developing develop new approaches to modulate these pathways therapeutically.

Role of innate immunity in HIV pathogenesis

Sex-based difference in human innate immunity

Intersection of autophagy and TLR signaling in HIV

HIV Pre-exposure prophylaxis - HIV preventatitve treatment options

Despite advances in HIV treatment and risk management, HIV infection rates in Australia continue to rise. For this reason, new HIV prevention strategies are being developed, particularly in Victoria, which has the highest rate of HIV diagnoses in the country.

The following study has recently been funded to undertake a HIV Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PreEP) trial in VIctoria to show that PrEP can be implemented feasibly, safely and effectively in the Victorian populations at highest risk of HIV acquisition:

The Victorian HIV Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis Demonstration Project

HIV co-morbidities

Complications of HIV infection and the drugs that are used to treat it include cardiovascular disease, hypertension and loss of bone marrow density: The following projects investigate HIV co-morbidities and treatment options to help improve patient health:

Do ACE inhibitors and Angiotensin II Receptor Antagonists increase CD4+ cell counts in virologically suppressed HIV+ patients with  hypertension? (download)

HIV and Cardiovascular Diseases
HIV and Bone Disease

HIV Clinical Research

The Infectious Diseases Clinical Research Unit is involved in testing the efficacy and safety of new or novel drug treatments and observational studies that contribute to evidence synthesis for decision making in healthcare.

The Unit is involved in the following HIV clinical research projects:

Disulfiram a dose escalation study - HIV Cure

HealthMap - a cluster randomised trial of interactive self-care plans to prevent and manage chronic conditions by people living with HIV

Positive Ageing: understanding & responding to experiences of ageing by people with HIV

The Melbourne HIV Cohort

Other links

For more information on research groups and study opportunities please download the Department of Infectious Diseases Research Project Handout.