Researchers have discovered that taking a single daily pill containing two HIV drugs can reduce the risk of contracting Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) by an average of 44 percent and by more than 73 percent for men taking their pills most faithfully. A pill already used to treat HIV infection turns out to be a powerful weapon in protecting healthy gay men from catching the virus, a global study found.

Daily doses of Truvada cut the risk of infection by 44 percent when given with condoms, counseling and other prevention services. The study involved nearly 2,500 high-risk gay men and was reported online in the New England Journal of Medicine. Researchers had feared the pills might give a false sense of security and make men less likely to use condoms or to limit their partners, but the opposite happened – risky sex declined.

The study also found that the results are a major advance that can help curb the epidemic in gay men, but Dr. Kevin Fenton also warned the drugs may not apply to people exposed to HIV through male-female sex, drug use or other ways and that studies in those groups are under way now. “It’s not time for gay and bisexual men to throw out their condoms,” Dr. Fenton said. The pill “should never be seen as a first line of defense against HIV.” As a practical matter, price could limit use. The pills cost from $5,000 to $14,000 a year in the United States.

The article also reported that gay and bisexual men account for nearly half of the more than one million Americans living with HIV. Worldwide, more than 7,000 new infections occur each day. Unlike in the United States, only 5 to 10 percent of global cases involve sex between men. “The condom is still the first line of defense,” because it also prevents other sexually spread diseases and unwanted pregnancies, said the study leader, Dr. Robert M. Grant of the Gladstone Institutes, a private foundation affiliated with the University of California, San Francisco. But many men don’t or won’t use condoms all the time, so researchers have been testing other prevention tools.

References:

  1. AIDS Pill Helps Gay Men Avoid HIV Infection – 365Gay.com
    http://www.365gay.com/news/study-aids-pill-helps-gay-men-avoid-hiv-infection/
  2. Gladstone Institutes
    http://www.gladstone.ucsf.edu/gladstone/site/publicaffairs/content/1/707
  3. New England Journal of Medicine
    http://www.nejm.org
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