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South Africa: Tests on "HIV Pill" to Stave Off AIDS

July 24, 2008

On Tuesday in Cape Town, the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation announced plans to test whether a pill provides protection from HIV for men at high risk of contracting the virus. Project Manager Earl Burrell said the pre-exposure prophylaxis strategy -- in which persons are given drugs to help them fight infection -- is already being employed against TB and malaria.

"Pre-exposure prophylaxis is a rather extreme prevention method for people where condoms and behavior change doesn't work," Burrell said. "If we take a high-risk group and we offer them counseling and condoms and test them every month, we will reduce the risk [of HIV infection] but we won't eliminate it completely."

The researchers will recruit 200 men who have sex with men to participate. The men selected will be healthy but at high risk of HIV infection due to having multiple partners or having unprotected sex with someone they knew was HIV-positive.

All participants will receive intensive counseling and monthly testing during the two-year study and for a six-month follow-up period. Half the volunteers will receive a daily dose of Truvada -- which combines the antiretrovirals tenofovir and emtricitabine -- while the other half will receive a placebo. Neither the volunteers nor the researchers will know which participants are receiving the HIV medication.

Burrell said Truvada was chosen because it is safe, effective, and has few side effects.

Back to other news for July 2008

Adapted from:
Business Day (South Africa)
07.23.2008; Tamar Kahn

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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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