A blue pill could be the key to preventing the spread of HIV, according to a new study.
Researchers found that Truvada, a once-daily pre-exposure pill, was 100 percent successful in keeping high-risk individuals from becoming infected with HIV.
Experts are notoriously skeptical about HIV-prevention drugs, but the recent results have brought renewed hope to the medial community.
Researchers at Kaiser Permanente in San Francisco conducted a study on Truvada to test it as a pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). The observational study took two and half years and included 600 participants with a high risk of developing HIV.
The majority of participants were homosexual men who frequently engaged in sex with other men. All participants were healthy at the beginning of the study. Each individual was prescribed a daily regimen of the Truvada pill.
Previous PrEP treatments have reduced the risk of becoming infected with HIV by up to 92 percent when taken every day. A British study of homosexual men, called PROUD showed that their risk was reduced by 86 percent.
In the most recent study, published in the Clinical Infectious Diseases, 100 percent of participants did not become infected with HIV.
The study is considered to be “the first to extend the understanding of the use of PrEP in a real-world setting and suggests that the treatment may prevent new HIV infections even in a high-risk setting,” according to lead author Jonathan Volk, a physician and epidemiologist at Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Medical Center.
The Future of PrEP
In 2012, the Food and Drug Administration approved Truvada as a preventive HIV treatment.
Dubbed a “party drug” by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, the opposition thought high-risk individuals would use it as a replacement for condoms, which could further spread other sexually transmitted diseases. The popularity of the hashtag #Truvadawhore illustrates how quickly the drug developed a bad reputation.
The study results are promising, encouraging many critics to change their minds. But a number of questions remain unanswered.
Researchers are studying factors that could influence the consistent use of the pill, its effectiveness if not taken before and after sex, and how to implement education programs in a standard medical atmosphere.
Truvada is being tested in clinical trials in different populations throughout the world. The National Institutes of Health in South Africa is testing the drug in heterosexual adolescent men and women ages 15 to 19. In Australia, the drug is being tested for people infected with HIV who are in relationships with HIV-negative partners.
When Truvada is released, it will need to be used in conjunction with additional protections like condoms. It will be interesting to see how the drug is priced and if lower economic classes will be able to access it.
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