(RxWiki News) Findings from a recent study show that individuals at high risk of HIV infection dramatically reduce their chances of infection if they take a daily dose of the same antiretrovirals used to treat HIV infections.
This method of HIV prevention is referred to as pre-exposure prophylaxis or PrEP.
The study, called iPrEx, was published online in the New England Journal of Medicine. 2,499 men at high risk of infection participated in iPrEx. The study observed only men who have sex with men. About half of the participants received the antiretroviral drug Truvada, while the other half received a placebo. Compared to those who took the placebo tablet, the group of participants assigned to Truvada saw nearly 44 percent less HIV infections. Within the Truvada group, those who took the tablet 50 percent or more of days reduced their risk of infection by about 50 percent. Participants who took the tablet 90 percent or more of days reduced their risk of HIV infection by nearly 73 percent.
Even with these promising findings, PrEP is still in the preliminary stages of testing. As Anthony S. Fauci, M.D. states, "It is important to note that the new findings pertain only to the effectiveness of PrEP among men who have sex with men and cannot at this point be extrapolated to other populations." He continues by adding that other populations, such as women and heterosexual men, must be studied in future research into PrEP.
While many agree that further research is needed, the PrEP prevention method is a huge step forward in preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS, especially for those who cannot use condoms because they sell sex or face the potential of being raped. However, the researchers and other HIV-prevention groups adamantly advise that correct use of condoms and a reduced number of sexual partners remain the most effective ways to protect against HIV infection.