A rather staggering result was published by the Clinical Infectious Diseases this week. Researchers working with 600 people using HIV prevention pill Truvada, have found that after two and a half years, no new HIV infections have been detected.
Truvada is what’s known as an HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), and is the first drug approved that reduces the risk of infection in uninfected people who may have had sex with HIV infected people.
When such a person is exposed to HIV, two anti-retroviral medications contained in the pill work together, in order to keep the virus from establishing a permanent infection – when taken consistently.
You may also remember that Truvada has come under some criticism, as some were concerned it would promote unsafe sex. However, a published study has found that this is not the case, and even observed a trend towards safe sex. Check out that study, here.
Back to this study, though. A Kaiser Permanente team worked with 657 PrEP users, who mostly consisted of gay or bisexual men, over a period of 32 months. And, despite the fact that were was a high amount of sexually transmitted infections, as well as risky behaviour such as decreased condom use, there were no new HIV infections in the group. This essentially means that they did contract other STI’s, but not HIV.
Jonathan Volk, study leader at Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Medical Center, had this to say when speaking to the New York Times: “This is very reassuring data. It tells us that PrEP works even in a high-risk population.”
When speaking on a seperate occasion to SF Gate, Jonathan said this: “PrEP is another line of defense. I don’t think PrEP is right for everybody. But for the folks who need it, it works.”
There are a couple things to keep in mind with this study, though. The first is that observational studies such as this aren’t as rigorous as clinical trials and placebos, and the second is that the researchers can’t know for sure if the participants took their medication regularly. Still, while more testing does need to be done – this is definitely encouraging.