FDA Approves the First Drug for Reducing Risk of HIV Infection

By Veronique Greenwood | July 17, 2012 12:11 pm

Thanks to modern treatments, HIV, though incurable, is far from the death sentence it once was. But it is still a life sentence, coming with the high cost, both personal and economic, of chronic disease, making avoiding infection in the first place a major goal for public health agencies. To that end, after numerous trials, the FDA has now approved Truvada, a combination drug that is already being used to treat HIV, as a preventative.

Truvada and its component drugs have made headlines in recent years as researchers tested them out in what they call “high-risk populations”: the uninfected partners of people who have HIV, African women, and other groups that are at a higher risk than the general population for contracting the disease. Although condoms can help prevent HIV transmission, people don’t always use them, and alternatives that can be applied or taken before sex, like gels and pills, may help these populations protect themselves.

In one trial, Truvada reduced the risk of contracting HIV by 90% in gay men who took it religiously. In another, this one with 4,800 heterosexual couples in which one member had the disease, it reduced the rate of transmission by 75%.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine
  • Kaviani

    Keeping corporate coffers stocked is priorty one of our gov’t, so I’m not surprised ($13K/yr, this drug).

    I am saddened, though. This is an insult to the decades of education efforts on the topic. Great, you *may* not get HIV, but you can get every other STD as well as compromised liver and kidney function. The only people I can see really benefitting are uninfected, affluent partners of people with HIV.

  • Renee

    Kaviani, decades of education have only barely started to reduce HIV incidence in many countries in Africa, and only in certain sub-populations. People know how to prevent infection, but knowing is simply not enough – there are other issues like stigma, gender power, and hopelessness that make prevention for these populations difficult (eg: asking to use a condom is tantamount to admitting you have HIV in many places, and particularly woman are reluctant to do this in case they are ostracized by their communities.) I agree that the price tag is prohibitive, but so were AARVs at first. Several countries are working towards or have a comprehensive free public medication program, and they may be able to at least work something out to provide the drug to those particularly at-risk and vulnerable (ie: young women). That’s better than nothing.

  • Eric T

    If “in one trial, Truvada reduced the risk of contracting HIV by 90% in gay men who took it religiously”, what happened to the secular gay men who didn’t pray?

  • http://whoknewindeed.wordpress.com Nuno

    Kaviani, this is not an insult. People may get irresponsible if they think that this is some kind of miraculous drug that will make them invulnerable to HIV, but if the medicine is sold with proper information, people will be advertised about the risks (that, though lessened, are still big enough to be thoroughly considered) and take the same precautions they usually took before the medicine was available.

    Perhaps what I said is unrealistic to the most part of the cases, but it’d be cruel not to allow responsible people to reduce even more the risk of being infected.

    I completely agree with the selling of this drug, but Governments must make sure an accurate information about it’s efficiency and risks are learned by the population.

    The main risk seems that the virus might get resistant to the drug if people misuse this drug :/

  • floodmouse

    Where did you get the figure of 13k a year, and is that for the USA? One of the links says ‘In the developing world, the combination drug used in the trial is available for as little as $0.40 per day.” I browsed through the linked articles & didn’t see the 13k figure.

  • Rob

    1 – What about the risk for those that would have had ‘safer’ sex if they had not had access to the drug therapy? Wouldn’t that translate into a 25% (or 10% for gay men) ‘increase’ in risk?

    2 – What about the risk of health effects of unnecessary chemo therapy on the body? Doesn’t the drug itself take a toll on the body?

    3 – What about the risk of creating super duper super bugs that are immune to these therapies?

    So, a 75% (90% for gay men) decrease in the risk of HIV transmission during a sexual event versus a 75% (90% for gay men) decrease in health risk are completely different concepts. This doesn’t even take into account the concept that the scheme may backfire and actually prolong an epidemic by creating an environment where people can further delude themselves that sex is risk free. That is, after all, how the virus thrives to begin with.

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