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Breakthrough PrEP Treatment Lowers HIV Risk for MSM

Breakthrough PrEP Treatment Lowers HIV Risk for MSM

A drug primarily used to treat people with HIV has been found to also act as an effective tool to prevent transmitting the virus.

Among a study of 2,500 men who have sex with men and transgender women who have sex with men, who used the antiretroviral medication TDF/FTC, known as the brand name Truvada, were 44% less likely to become infected with the virus. Those in the study who took the pill diligently had 70% lower risk of contracting HIV than those who did not take the pill regularly. The study was published Tuesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

At the end of the trial, 36 people on the Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis Initiative (PrEP) regimen became infected with HIV, while 64 people taking the placebo were infected. According to the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors, this is the first time that oral antiretroviral medication has shown to be effective in reducing the risk of getting HIV among men who have sex with men.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a statement on the trial Tuesday morning, and the agency plans to publish interim guidance for health care providers in the coming weeks in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, followed by formal U.S. Public Health Service guidelines.

The CDC cautions people to remember that the study solely involved Truvada, therefore other drugs may not be as effective. They also encouraged people to remember that PrEP is not the first line of defense against HIV.

Julie Scofield executive director of the NASTAD, agreed in a statement Tuesday.

“Condoms are still the first line of defense, but we’re hopeful that PrEP may be an important addition to a comprehensive prevention toolbox that will help prevent new infections among gay men,” she said. “Cost will be a major factor in the feasibility of implementing PrEP as will the comprehensive set of services beyond ARV treatments that will likely be required for PrEP to be replicated and afforded in the real world.”

In current form, the treatment can cost approximately $36 per day, or $13,000 annually. NPR reports, however, that there are less expensive generic versions of the Truvada overseas.

As for the men involved in the study, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases will continue to offer them a chance to keep taking Truvada, according to Reuters. The continued monitoring will allow them to find out whether they become resistant to the drug, therefore causing it to lose its potency in staving off HIV.

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