Advocating Pill, U.S. Signals Shift to Prevent AIDS

17 June 2014Health

Donald McNeil Jr., writing for The New York Times:

Federal health officials recommended Wednesday that hundreds of thousands of Americans at risk for AIDS take a daily pill that has been shown to prevent infection with the virus that causes it.

If broadly followed, the advice could transform AIDS prevention in the United States — from reliance on condoms, which are effective but unpopular with many men, to a regimen that relies on an antiretroviral drug.

It would mean a 50-fold increase in the number of prescriptions for the drug, Truvada — to 500,000 a year from fewer than 10,000. The drug costs $13,000 a year, and most insurers already cover it.

[…]

Since 2010, three separate studies using Truvada have shown that when taken daily it can vastly reduce the chances of infection. That held true for gay men, heterosexual couples and drug injectors. In the study of gay men, known as iPrEx, men whose blood tests showed they had taken their pill every day were 99 percent protected.

Despite decades of condom-use promotion, the number of new H.I.V. infections in the United States remains relatively stable. I’m somewhat skeptical that at-risk populations will be any more likely to take daily pills than wear condoms, but given the discouraging new infection statistics, it’s pretty clear that new strategies are worth a try.