July 13, 2011
"Two new studies done in three African countries have shown for the first time that AIDS drugs taken daily can cut by more than half a person's chance of becoming infected with HIV through heterosexual intercourse," the Washington Post reports. One of the studies, carried out in Kenya and Uganda by the University of Washington, was halted a year and a half early because of positive results, while the other, conducted in Botswana by the CDC, ended as scheduled in the spring, according to the newspaper (Brown, 7/13).
The larger study, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, involved 4,758 discordant couples in Kenya and Uganda, with the uninfected partners receiving either a placebo, the antiretroviral tenofovir (also called Viread), or a combination antiretroviral containing tenofovir and emtricitabine (brand name Truvada), the Associated Press/NPR reports. "The study found 13 HIV infections among those on Truvada, 18 in those on Viread, and 47 of those on dummy pills. So the medications reduced the risk of HIV infection by 62 percent to 73 percent, the researchers said," the news agency reports (7/13).
The other study involving "1,200 uninfected heterosexual men and women in Botswana found that those taking a once-daily dose of Truvada reduced their risk of acquiring HIV by about 63 percent compared to those taking a placebo. CDC researchers believe the results may be even stronger among participants who adhered closely to the regimen," according to the Wall Street Journal (Rockoff/McKay/Schoofs, 7/13).
"The idea of such 'pre-exposure prophylaxis,' known as PrEP, has gained traction in the past year, following results of other research showing a fall in infection rates among gay men taking AIDS drugs," according to Reuters (Hirschler, 7/13). "The two new studies add to a rapidly expanding suite of prevention methods beyond behavioral efforts such as condoms and abstinence," the Wall Street Journal writes. However, "[a] major problem is financing for HIV/AIDS, which fell for the first time in 2010 for low- and middle-income countries, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation," the newspaper notes (7/13). The foundation plans to release the new financing data in a joint report with UNAIDS soon.