The ongoing debate about the efficacy of Truvada as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to prevent HIV infection just got a new wrinkle: a new study suggests the drug can also lower infection rates of genital herpes, despite opponent concerns that use of PrEP would lead to an increase in STDs including herpes.
The study of 131 heterosexual couples in Kenya and Uganda sought to determine if Truvada was effective in reducing rates of herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2). Couples were considered at high risk of infection because they were in a sero-discordant relationship. The study focused on the transmission rates of HSV-2, which were reduced by 30 percent among those taking Truvada.
Although the results are promising, it is not expected to lead to usage of Truvada as a preventative measure for herpes.
“No one is going to use tenofovir [Truvada] specifically to reduce herpes. There are some side effects and the drug is not cheap. It will only be used as prevention for HIV — not herpes — for high-risk people,” Dr. Myron Cohen told Health Magazine. Dr. Cohen is associate vice chancellor for Global Health at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine in Chapel Hill, and is familiar with the new research.
Previous studies of Truvada as PrEP has shown an efficacy rate of as much as 90 percent. Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued recommendations that support the use of PrEP as an important new tool in the prevention of HIV.