Truvada, a new HIV prevention drug, has been proven effective by the largest study to date. According to recent data, subjects who received the combination of embtricitabine and tenofovir before being exposed to the virus stayed disease-free.
Initially, Truvada was manufactured as an antiviral aimed to assist HIV patients in managing the disease. However, the Iprex study showed that the drug could reduce HIV-transmission rates by 44% more than placebos. Another trial on heterosexual couples with one HIV-positive partner proved that uninfected subjects taking Truvada were 75% more unlikely to acquire the virus.
As a result, in 2012 the drug was approved by the FDA to be used by those with a high risk of developing HIV (such as homosexual men with multiple sexual partners), as a daily pre-exposure prophylactic (PrEP).
Recently, the most comprehensive study in the field was published in the „Clinical Infectious Diseases” journal by private insurance company Kaiser Permanente. The research involved 657 San Francisco residents, who were studied by experts for two and a half years. Truvada’s effectiveness as an HIV prophylactic was tested, as well as the likelihood of people taking it to engage in risky sex.
In the past, although some had considered it the medicine to ”end the HIV epidemic”, others had claimed it could encourage people to discontinue the use of condoms, which would make them more susceptible to other sexually transmitted diseases.
The average age of the study participants was 37 years old, and 99% of them were homosexual men. After a period of six months, 143 patients who had been using Truvada were asked about their sexual behavior. 74% hadn’t changed their number of partners, 15% had reduced it, and just 11% had actually increased it.
In addition, researchers found out at the end of the trial that none of the subjects on PrEP had contracted the virus, thus proving the pill to be highly effective. Previous findings from the Ipergay study earlier this year had shown that Truvada reduced HIV risk by 86% even among those who used it irregularly, before and after sex instead of on a daily basis.
”This is very reassuring data. It tells us that PrEP works even in a high-risk population”, stated Dr. Jonathan E. Volk, the Kaiser study’s lead author.
Moreover, since they had begun taking Truvada, more than a half of the participants (56%) reported they hadn’t changed the frequency of using condoms, although 41% acknowledged they had been less cautious about using them.
As far as other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are concerned, the study didn’t use a control group to test if those on PrEP acquired such diseases more frequently than people not using the drug.
Overall, after 6 months since they began taking Truvada, 30% were diagnosed with at least one STI, and after 1 year half of the participants suffered from such an infection: a third of them had a rectal STI, another third had chlamydia, while 28% suffered from gonorrhea and 5.5% from syphilis.
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