Program in HIV Medicine

About the Program in HIV Medicine

While modern medicine has made substantial progress in the fight against HIV and AIDS, there is still much work to do. At the University of Minnesota, we have our eyes set on the horizon. We want to cure HIV with research that will yield new therapies and treatment approaches.

The questions we want to answer are at the leading edge of HIV research and the results of our studies will lead to further research into how HIV treatment can be more effective and promote a complete healing of the immune system. Our faculty has the experience needed to accelerate ideas into action and stand on a strong foundation of discovery.

When we look to the future, we're confident our Program in HIV Medicine will be instrumental in finding the answers needed to solve HIV infection. The milestones of 30 years ago are critical to where we are today, but the research carrying our field forward remains more important than ever.

Our Research 

Over the last 25 years, modern medicine has made tremendous advancements in the fight against HIV and AIDS. But despite our progress, there are still far too many unanswered questions.

Current therapy allows people with HIV to live longer, but we still cannot cure patients with the disease. We need more effective therapies and a new generation of medication that moves from virus suppression to virus eradication.

Researchers within the University of Minnesota's Program in HIV Medicine are currently exploring three main avenues of research:

  • Eliminating persistent reservoirs of infection
  • Repairing the immune system
  • Reducing inflammation caused by HIV as it replicates

Eliminating Persistent Reservoirs of HIV Infection

Even when a patient is being treated for HIV, reservoirs of infection can remain throughout the body's lymphatic system. Persistent virus replication may lead to chronic immune system activation in patients, which can lead to accelerated aging, increased cardiovascular events, and early mortality.

Through a comprehensive survey of all available antiretroviral drugs, our researchers hope to identify new combinations that can provide maximum penetration into the lymphatic system to deliver medication more effectively and stop virus replication in places we currently cannot reach.

Incomplete Immune System Reconstitution

Our immune system is the front line of our body's defense against infection. When we get sick, our body's immune system attacks the intruder and then returns to full strength in preparation of the next illness. But for patients battling HIV, the immune system is constantly under attack and never fully recovers. This failure to reconstitute can cause residual problems for patients and heavily undercuts their ability to fight infection.

University of Minnesota researchers is currently exploring new treatment approaches aimed at reversing damage to the immune system caused by HIV while restoring the population of immune cells (CD4 cells) that are essential for normal immune responses.

Reducing Inflammation

As HIV replicates in a patient's lymphatic tissue, the immune system is significantly compromised by inflammation. Unless the resulting tissue damage is reversed, the immune system can't work in partnership with HIV therapy to combat infection.

In new clinical trials, University of Minnesota researchers are testing FDA-approved medication that may help reverse the inflammatory damage caused by HIV replication in lymphatic tissues.