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HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) remains one of the greatest challenges to human health. Over 38 million people around the world live with HIV and AIDS. Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is the most advanced stage of HIV infection. The AIDS pandemic took a life every minute, on average, in 2021. A primary focus of Burnet's research is achieving the global goal of HIV elimination.

To help achieve the global goal of HIV elimination, our main research program objectives are to:

  • develop, implement and sustain approaches to support the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of HIV
  • develop and maintain innovative and cutting-edge approaches that monitor and model the HIV epidemic, and inform refinements to the HIV response
  • improve our understanding of the health and social needs of people living with HIV, and inform, implement and evaluate strategies for improving their health, wellbeing and quality of life.

In Australia, it is estimated that more than 27,500 people are living with HIV, but more than 10-12 per cent remain undiagnosed. Burnet’s HIV: Reaching the Unmet program aims to address this gap.

To achieve our goals, we have adopted a multi-disciplinary approach to address the HIV epidemic in Australia. We are applying our local capacity to help inform responses across the region and globally. Working collaboratively with partners, we provide strategic leadership to drive innovation in the HIV response.

Our research focuses on the four pillars towards eliminating HIV:

  • prevention and vaccines
  • testing
  • modelling and surveillance
  • treatment and quality of life.

More specifically, our strategies for achieving HIV elimination include:

  • maintaining and building upon close collaborations with representatives from key populations and people living with HIV in Australia and in resource-constrained settings to guide our work
  • developing, implementing and expanding innovative HIV surveillance systems and bio-behavioural data collection and analyses that enhance our understanding of HIV risk and protective behaviours among vulnerable populations
  • working in partnerships with government and civil society to strengthen health systems and reduce social and legislative marginalisation and stigma of HIV-risk populations
  • generating evidence to guide innovative biomedical interventions and communication technology tools for HIV prevention, and facilitating and advocating for their implementation
  • undertaking implementation and demonstration projects, and mathematical modelling, that supports and identifies the most cost-effective way to expand HIV testing, treatment and primary prevention
  • advocating for and developing evidence to support peer involvement and leadership in HIV prevention programs
  • developing HIV vaccine candidates, new drug classes, microbicides, and diagnostics for prioritisation in clinical studies
  • implementing new diagnostic tools for the rapid detection of people needing HIV treatment in resource-constrained settings
  • gaining a better understanding of the biological, social, political and structural factors that lead to exacerbated HIV risk for adolescent girls and women to help guide responses to redress these gender inequalities.

Since the early days of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, Burnet has been at the forefront of addressing some of the challenges of HIV. We remain the key research and implementation partner in Australia’s HIV response.

Here are some of the ways we’ve made a positive contribution towards reaching the global goal of HIV elimination:

  • completed discovery research focused on new classes of HIV drugs to address drug resistance
  • created a low-cost, point-of-care HIV diagnostic VISITECT® CD4
  • explored vaccine possibilities
  • examined mechanisms of ageing and frailty at the cellular level of people living with HIV
  • developed a device to simplify the collection and transport of blood specimens in remote locations
  • led multi-country HIV strategic planning and developed national AIDS strategies
  • partnered on programs to support HIV prevention among highly vulnerable communities
  • supported health systems strengthening through HIV clinical training and technical oversight of HIV policy
  • improved the HIV responses in over 45 countries and informed regional and global discussions on HIV resourcing through Optima Consortium modelling
  • collaborated with The Kirby Institute and NRL Quality to deliver the innovative and internationally unique, ACCESS surveillance system (The Australian Collaboration for Coordinated Enhanced Sentinel Surveillance of Sexually Transmissible Infections and Blood-borne Viruses). It provides a mechanism to monitor progress towards Australia’s HIV prevention and care targets
  • partnered with Alfred Health to lead world-class research that used ACCESS and our analytical and modelling expertise to study the impact of HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) scale-up through the PrEPX Trial
  • collaborated with the Kirby Institute to lead unique innovations in the monitoring of people through the HIV care cascade and its impact of population-level HIV prevention.

Burnet projects are currently underway; each focused on addressing a different aspect of eliminating HIV.


Australia’s first shop-front, community-based and peer-led HIV testing service for gay men was established by Burnet in collaboration with the Victorian AIDS Council and the Victorian Government. The Victorian AIDS Council has since established the PRONTO! service as an integral part of Victoria’s community and clinical HIV prevention and care landscape.


minutes is all it takes for Burnet's world-first point-of-care test for HIV (VISITECT® CD4) to provide results. The test has been accepted for the World Health Organization’s list of prequalified in vitro diagnostics, which is the highest level of regulatory approval for a product of its type. This means that aid agencies delivering HIV services in low-to-middle-income countries can use the test to put more people on the appropriate HIV treatment sooner.


is the number of ‘fragments’ (very small chemicals that could be useful in binding and blocking the functioning of a viral target) that Burnet researchers screened to discover a new drug class for HIV treatment and prevention.

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Burnet is an Australian-based medical research and public health institute and international non-government organisation that is working towards a more equitable world through better health.