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Gay Men Divided Over Use of HIV Prevention Drug

April 7, 2014

This article was reported by reported that gay men, AIDS activists, and health professionals were divided in their opinion regarding the use of Truvada for HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). Gilead Sciences has manufactured Truvada, one of the key drugs used to treat HIV, for approximately 10 years. In 2012, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration also approved Truvada as PrEP for sexually transmitted HIV. Although many AIDS activists and physicians were campaigning to raise awareness of Truvada, believing that it could prevent new HIV cases, others believed that such efforts were "reckless."

Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, stated that taking Truvada could tempt men who have sex with men (MSM) to abandon condom use, leaving them vulnerable to other STDs. Other critics noted that many gay men would not take daily Truvada doses as required. Truvada cost approximately $13,000 per year, but proponents argued that most insurance plans, including Medicaid, covered the drug's cost.

Proponents cited studies that indicated diligent use of Truvada could reduce HIV risks by more than 90 percent. Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, medical director of the ambulatory HIV program at New York's Mount Sinai Hospital, hoped that doubts about Truvada would fade, since it could protect men who had a "significant amount of unprotected sex," in addition to connecting them to regular healthcare. Daskalakis noted that only 25 men in his practice took the drug. Limited use of the drug possibly resulted from lack of awareness or gay men's misgivings about Truvada.

Gilead reported that 1,774 people -- approximately half of them women -- began using Truvada for prevention between January 2011 and March 2013. Dr. Robert Winn, medical director at Philadelphia's Mazzoni Center, attributed low uptake to the necessity of taking the drug daily.

Back to other news for April 2014

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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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