HIV pills show more promise to prevent infection

July 22, 2014 by The Associated Press
In this May 10, 2012 file photo, Dr. Lisa Sterman holds up a Truvada pill, an HIV treatment pill used to prevent infection in people at high risk of getting the AIDS virus, at her office in San Francisco. Research showing that the pill does not encourage risky sex and is effective even if people skip some doses was discussed Tuesday, July 22, 2014, at the International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, Australia. The research was published by the British journal Lancet Infectious Diseases (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)

There is more good news about HIV treatment pills used to prevent infection in people at high risk of getting the AIDS virus: Follow-up from a landmark study that proved the drug works now shows that it does not encourage risky sex and is effective even if people skip some doses.

The research was discussed Tuesday at the International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, Australia, and was published by the British journal Lancet Infectious Diseases.

It involves 1,600 gay men and transgender women who took part in the original study showing that daily use of the drug Truvada lowered the risk of getting HIV.

After the study ended, they were offered the chance to keep getting the pills for free, and three-quarters of them agreed. All were studied for another 17 months.

None who took the pills at least four days a week became infected. Even use two or three days a week lowered the risk of infection compared to taking the pills less often or not at all. Researchers could tell how often the drug was taken because they measured it in blood samples.

"We're encouraged," said study leader Dr. Robert Grant, an AIDS expert at the Gladstone Institutes, a foundation affiliated with the University of California, San Francisco. "There's a demand, there's some forgiveness for missed doses. And it's safe."

Mitchell Warren, who heads a nonprofit group that works on HIV prevention research, said in an email from Melbourne that "the story is now clear" that this approach "is real, it works, and it should be made available to people at risk now as part of high-impact combination prevention."

Condoms remain the best way to prevent HIV infection but not everyone uses them all the time, so recommend other options for certain groups, such as .

Some health officials had worried that taking Truvada might give a false sense of security and make men less likely to use condoms or to limit their partners. However, study participants reported no increase in these behaviors, and there was no rise in syphilis or herpes, other sexually spread diseases that might suggest risk-taking.

The study was done in the United States, South America, Africa and Thailand, and paid for by the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

Truvada already is sold for treating HIV. It's a combination of two drugs, tenofovir and emtricitabine, or FTC, made by California-based Gilead Sciences Inc. Its wholesale price is $800 a month in the U.S. but generic versions are available in other countries and they cost as little as 31 cents a day in Africa, Grant said.

"The main challenge is to find a way to make it more available," he said.

Explore further: Studies show big promise for HIV prevention drug

More information: AIDS information: www.aidsinfo.nih.gov and www3.niaid.nih.gov/topics/HIVAIDS/

Related Stories

Studies show big promise for HIV prevention drug

March 4, 2014
Exciting research suggests that a shot every one to three months may someday give an alternative to the daily pills that some people take now to cut their risk of getting HIV.

US backs expanded AIDS therapy for prevention

May 16, 2014
US health authorities are recommending the daily use of anti-retroviral medication to prevent HIV infection for high-risk groups.

In US, gay men clash over HIV prevention pill

May 17, 2014
A single daily pill may help prevent HIV. And in America, gay men who have lost countless loved ones to AIDS can't stop fighting about it.

No link between HIV-prevention pill Truvada and increased sexual risk behavior

December 18, 2013
In 2012 the HIV antiretroviral drug Truvada became the first and only medication approved by the FDA for HIV prevention. Led by Gladstone Institutes' Investigator Robert Grant, MD, MPH, this research was hailed as an important ...

HIV drug can also protect injection drug users (Update)

June 12, 2013
Doctors should consider giving a daily AIDS drug to another high risk group to help prevent infections—people who shoot heroin, methamphetamines or other injection drugs, U.S. health officials said Wednesday.

Recommended for you

Scientists divulge latest in HIV prevention

July 25, 2017
A far cry from the 1990s "ABC" campaign promoting abstinence and monogamy as HIV protection, scientists reported on new approaches Tuesday allowing people to have all the safe sex they want.

Girl's HIV infection seems under control without AIDS drugs

July 24, 2017
A South African girl born with the AIDS virus has kept her infection suppressed for more than eight years after stopping anti-HIV medicines—more evidence that early treatment can occasionally cause a long remission that, ...

Meds by monthly injection might revolutionize HIV care (Update)

July 24, 2017
Getting a shot of medication to control HIV every month or two instead of having to take pills every day could transform the way the virus is kept at bay.

Candidate AIDS vaccine passes early test

July 24, 2017
The three-decade-old quest for an AIDS vaccine received a shot of hope Monday when developers announced that a prototype triggered the immune system in an early phase of human trials.

Paris spotlight on latest in AIDS science

July 21, 2017
Some 6,000 HIV experts gather in Paris from Sunday to report advances in AIDS science as fading hopes of finding a cure push research into new fields.

Scientists elicit broadly neutralizing antibodies to HIV in calves

July 20, 2017
Scientists supported by the National Institutes of Health have achieved a significant step forward, eliciting broadly neutralizing antibodies (bNAbs) to HIV by immunizing calves. The findings offer insights for HIV vaccine ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.