With the prevalence of medicines like PrEP, we have come a long way with HIV prevention and treatment. But it seems we could be looking at an even better future for HIV prevention.
Currently, the best prevention for HIV is proper sexual responsibility combined with a medicine like PrEP, which when taken properly can drastically reduce the chances of catching the disease. But the Bill & Miranda Gates Foundation wants to make the prevention of HIV as easy as possible, as of course the best way to stamp out HIV is to stop it from occurring in the first place.
Their foundation is investing $140 million in the pharmaceutical company Intarcia Therapeutics, who have a program to develop a under-the-skin implant which will deliver a stream of anti-HIV drugs in either six or twelve month batches. So instead of having to take medication every day, you’d only need to worry about it once or twice per year.
The pump in use here is also going to be used for Type 2 diabetes and Intarcia actually submitted the paperwork for commercial use last November, so you could see that hitting the market quite soon. This could be a wonderful step forward for diabetes sufferers.
Sue Desmond-Hellmann, CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said: “There’s a vital need for an HIV/AIDS intervention that allows those at risk to incorporate prevention more easily into their daily lives. We feel optimistic about our partnership with Intarcia and the prospect of an implantable prophylactic device that could make a world of difference for people most in need.”
Kurt Graves, Chairman, President and CEO of Intarcia Therapeutics, also chimed in: “We are tremendously excited and humbled to work with an incredible organization as smart, forward-looking and purpose-based as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.”
However, while the technology here is very exciting and could be a massive step for HIV prevention, the practical implementation of the anti-HIV pump is years away. Intarcia have still not decided on which drug to use and of course there are the usual hurdles of regulations and such before it becomes available for use by the public. But if the technology works as promised, it could be a huge contributor to HIV prevention in areas such as sub-Saharan Africa, where the virus is still a major issue.
Of course, as with any medication, there are problems with getting people to take it consistently in the recommended dose and timings, so the pump could be a very elegant way of solving that. There is the issue of cost, however, as it would have to be fairly cheap for wide
With all that in mind however, the possibilities here are very interesting. Here’s hoping that it’s not terribly long before we see the results of the Foundation’s and Intarcia’s work in public hands.