Drug can "greatly reduce" risk of HIV infection

Published: November 24, 2010

Drug can "greatly reduce" risk of HIV infection

Authors of a new study say a drug used to treat HIV-positive patients may offer men who have sex with men some protection against contracting the virus.

In the research published in the New England Journal of Medicine, trials of the pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) Truvada among nearly 2,500 men suggested it could reduce the chances of male-to-male HIV infection by 44%.

The authors claimed those using the drug regularly could further reduce the risk of infection.

The study is the first evidence PrEP reduces HIV infection risk.

Truvada is manufactured by the California company Gilead Sciences Inc. It combines two antiretroviral drugs.

Almost 2,500 gay or bisexual men were randomly selected in Peru, Ecuador, Brazil, South Africa, Thailand and the United States. Half were given the pill, half were given dummy tablets. All the men were also given condoms and counselling on safe sex.

The drug appeared to cut male-to-male HIV transmission by 44% over a year, compared with the placebo group.

Those who were took the pill regularly reduced their risk of infection by up to 73 percent.

NIAID director, Dr Anthony Fauci, conceded more work needed to be done, but called the results impressive.

"This has been done in men who have sex with men. We need to know if we get similar results in women as well as in heterosexual men, which we have reason to believe we will," he told the BBC.

"We also need to get a long term view of were there any toxicities. We didn’t see anything that was significant but we need to follow that for a long period of time."

The Global Forum on MSM & HIV (MSMGF) has welcomed the “encouraging results”, saying the trial findings signal important progress toward an expanded repertoire of HIV prevention options.

It says the findings are promising and show that there is a potential role for PrEP to play in HIV prevention for MSM. However the group points out that with this new reality comes the fact that difficult questions about roll-out, cost, HIV-prevention messaging and the place PrEP takes in a broader continuum of prevention interventions need to be confronted.

There are a number of issues and concerns this new development raises and GayNZ.com will bring you response from experts.

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