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Inexpensive daily anti-HIV pill found to be effective as preventative measure

Thursday, July 14, 2011
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In a groundbreaking series of recent clinical trials, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that a pill containing either one or two anti-HIV drugs taken daily can reduce transmission of the HIV-virus by as much as three-quarters among heterosexual couples.

Dr. Jonathan Mermin, director of the CDC’s Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention, stated that two clinical trials in Kenya and Uganda along with a separate trial in Botswana, demonstrated that even with a current lack of a vaccine to combat against the HIV virus, this new approach, “termed pre-exposure prophylaxis,” may be the best hope for slowing or even halting the spread of the deadly plague throughout the developing world.

The two-drug combination pills are known commercially as “Truvada” manufactured by Gilead Sciences Corporation, in Foster City, California. The pills are generically obtainable in many developing countries for as little as 25 cents per pill, (U.S.), according to officials from the World Health Organization.

The new results — a breakthrough finding that promises to intensify a new focus on AIDS prevention — are scheduled to be presented next week at the International AIDS Society Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention in Rome, Italy.

“The last year has brought several breakthroughs in AIDS prevention research, in addition to this latest finding and the study involving gay men, a study released last July found that microbicides could sharply reduce HIV transmission in women and a study in HIV-positive people showed that treating the infected person intensively could reduce transmission by as much as 96%,” said Kevin Frost, chief executive of amfAR, the American Foundation for AIDS Research.

According to Mermin, the CDC would immediately begin working with other public health groups to establish guidelines for using the drugs prophylactically in this country.

“Physicians should await those guidelines before prescribing the drugs,” Mermin said, “but if they believe it is imperative to do it, they should adhere to the guidelines previously announced for using them in gay men.”

A study published in November in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that those who popped the pill more than 90% of the time, were 73% less susceptible to contract HIV.

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