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Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) Treatment

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is a nationally recognized center for the treatment of HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) and AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). We treat infants, children, and young adults who are living with HIV or diagnosed with AIDS.

HIV and AIDS are often spoken of as the same thing. But they are not the same. HIV is a virus that attacks the body’s immune system and weakens its ability to fight off infection. AIDS is an advanced stage of HIV infection. At this stage, the immune system is weak so that patients are likely to get infections that others could fight off. In some cases, cancers may develop that typically do not affect people with healthy immune systems.

While every patient with AIDS has an HIV infection, not all patients living with HIV infection have AIDS. Early diagnosis and treatment of HIV infection can prevent AIDS.

HIV infection symptoms

Most people who are infected with HIV have no symptoms for months to years. Children with HIV infection may have:

  • Lung infections (pneumonia)
  • Delayed growth, weight loss, or not able to gain weight normally
  • Symptoms similar to mononucleosis (mono) which may include fever, sore throat, or swollen lymph nodes

HIV causes

HIV is spread through contact with infected blood or other body fluids.

HIV infection can be passed from a mother to her baby. This may occur before birth, at the time of delivery, or through breastfeeding. In mothers living with HIV infection who have access to medical care and take medicines, the chances of the baby getting infected are low (less than 1 in 100).

Sexually active teens can be infected by having unprotected sex with an infected partner. About 1 in 3 new HIV infections in Shelby County is in youth 13–24 years old. Using barrier protection, such as a condom, prevents HIV infection and other sexually transmitted diseases, such as syphilis, hepatitis B, and gonorrhea.

HIV is not spread by shaking hands, touching, or other casual contact with an HIV-infected patient.

HIV diagnosis

HIV infection is diagnosed through a blood test or oral swab test. These tests are quick and easy. Free HIV tests are available through health departments and other community agencies.

Children born to mothers living with HIV are followed closely. Blood tests are done to ensure that these children do not have HIV infections.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) suggests that everyone between ages 13–64 should be tested at least once for HIV, regardless of whether they have symptoms.

HIV treatment

There are many medicines available to treat HIV. These medicines are called antiretrovirals. They may be combined, sometimes in 1 pill taken once a day. This treatment is similar to the treatment of other chronic diseases such as diabetes or high blood pressure. Until a cure for HIV is found, antiretroviral therapy (ART) must be taken as prescribed.

Like people with other chronic diseases, patients living with HIV infection who are in care and receiving treatment are living longer, healthier lives.

HIV and AIDS care at St. Jude

In 1987, St. Jude founder Danny Thomas declared AIDS a catastrophic disease of children. It was then that HIV/AIDS became a research priority of St. Jude.

St. Jude is home to a broad, multidisciplinary program called the Pediatric AIDS Clinical Trials Unit (PACTU). The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has labelled this unit as a Center of Excellence. It is where children and teenagers living with HIV/AIDS have access to some of the most promising therapies. Almost all of the currently approved medicines to treat children were studied at St. Jude for FDA approval.

The St. Jude HIV program for children and youth includes the following:

  • A broad, dedicated team: The staff consists of doctors, advanced practice providers, nurses, social workers, pharmacists, a psychiatrist, a psychologist, a chaplain, and a child life specialist. All of these care providers specialize in pediatric and youth-specific issues.
  • Continuity of HIV care: Patients living with HIV who are under age 22 are accepted in the program. Our patients are provided the latest recommended HIV care. Patients are supported through age 24. After patients turn 24, they transition to an adult care provider of their choice. A health care provider can refer a child or youth living with HIV to St. Jude.
  • A respected research program: The St. Jude HIV program is a well-recognized research center and takes part in numerous National Institutes of Health (NIH) and pharmaceutical industry studies. Supported by the NIH, St. Jude is a site for the International Maternal Pediatric Adolescent AIDS Clinical Trials Network (IMPAACT), the Adolescent Trials Network (ATN) and the Pediatric HIV/AIDS Cohort Study (PHACS).
  • Clinical trials: Through clinical trials, patients in the St. Jude HIV program have access to cutting-edge research, including new drugs in development.
  • A commitment to the community: The St. Jude HIV clinical staff is committed to HIV education and prevention in the community. Our doctors, advanced practice providers, outreach workers, and social workers provide HIV education and prevention presentations throughout the community and local school system. This includes a St. Jude-founded community group called Connect 2 Protect (C2P) to raise awareness and do outreach about HIV/AIDS in Memphis and the region. St. Jude is also leading an effort called Operation Zero to eliminate new cases of HIV/AIDS in Memphis by 2030.

For more information about HIV in the Memphis community, visit

HIV/AIDS clinical trials

St. Jude offers clinical trials and research studies for children, teens, and young adults for HIV/AIDS. Learn more about clinical research at St. Jude

IMPAACT2036: Study of long-acting injectable treatment for HIV

Study goal:

To test the first use of pills dissolved in liquid, as well as CAB and RPV shots in children ages 2–11 years and study the safety of treatment, how well it works, and if children will accept this treatment instead of pills


2–11 years old

A statue of children running and holding hands

Seeking treatment at St. Jude

Patients accepted to St. Jude must have a disease we treat and must be referred by a physician or other qualified medical professional. We accept most patients based on their ability to enroll in an open clinical trial.

How to seek treatment

Contact the Physician / Patient Referral Office

Call: 1-888-226-4343 (toll-free) or 901-595-4055 (local)  | Fax: 901-595-4011 | Email: | 24-hour pager: 1-800-349-4334


Learn more

Resources outside St. Jude