What if there was a pill that could protect against the HIV virus?
What many people don’t realize is that such a drug already exists and has proven to be incredibly effective at blocking the spread of the virus.
Last week, Kaiser Permanente published their findings for a 2.5 year study of Truvada, the pre-exposure prophylaxis drug for HIV. Truvada is actually a combination of two medicines, tenofovir and emtricitabine, that when taken daily can prevent HIV infection in an HIV-negative person if they are exposed to the virus.
Of the 657 people who began using PrEP over the 32-month observation period, none contracted HIV during the study. Previously conducted clinical trials had shown efficacy rates as high as 92% for preventing infection when the drug was taken properly, but the Kaiser Permanente study was the first to produce evidence supporting the drug’s efficacy in a real world setting.
It is important to note that Truvada is only recommended for people who are continually at high risk for contracting HIV (due to sexual practices or injection drug use)*. It is also a promising option for HIV discordant couples (in which one partner is HIV positive and the other is negative).
Also, to be effective Truvada needs to be taken very consistently each day which raises questions of practicality and concerns about the regular access to healthcare services that successful management requires. Still, PrEP remains a very promising tool for the continued battle to control the spread of HIV worldwide.
You can find more information on PrEP from the CDC: http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/prevention/research/prep/
*If a person is exposed to HIV in a single high-risk event, they could begin treatment with postexposure prophylaxis (PEP) within 72 hours of their exposure to the virus to mitigate the chance of infection.