AIDS advocates are divided about whether the potential approval of the first pill to prevent HIV infection will advance public health efforts to curb the epidemic.
The Food and Drug Administration is considering whether to approve Gilead Sciences Inc.'s Truvada for groups at high risk of HIV infection. A study cited by FDA shows it can reduce the risk of HIV by up to 94 percent for people who took the pill as prescribed. However, other trials indicated just 10 percent of participants adhered to prescribing instructions, and one study was halted after no benefit was seen. The $14,000-a-year drug is already approved for treating HIV infection.
"Among our own patients who are HIV-positive, we have difficulty getting them to adhere, let alone people who don't have the disease," said AIDS Healthcare Foundation President Michael Weinstein. AHF provides medical care for 130,000 patients worldwide.
Some advocates worry Truvada's approval could encourage unprotected sex. "If you have this new option, would you be riskier? There is no evidence to show that might be the case, but that doesn't mean it's not a concern," said Mitchell Warren, executive director of AVAC: Global Advocacy for HIV Prevention.
James Loduca, spokesperson for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, said approving Truvada as a pre-exposure prophylaxis would help certain people avoid infection during particular times in their lives. "We don't think PrEP is a lifetime prevention tool," he said. "It would be used in a targeted way for specific population and in relatively short periods of time."
"If deployed correctly and efficiently, it could make a big dent in the epidemic in the U.S.," said Howard Jaffe, president and chair of the Gilead Foundation.
Back to other news for May 2012
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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