The World Health Organization on Friday suggested for the first time that all men who have sex with men should take antiretroviral drugs to prevent HIV infection.
In guidelines published Friday, the UN health agency warned that HIV infections are rising among gay and bisexual men in many parts of the world, resulting in “exploding epidemics,” according to Gottfried Hirnschall, who heads WHO’s HIV department.
Hirnschall said that gay men are 19 times more likely than the general population to be infected by HIV.
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Taking pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) medication, for instance as a single daily pill combining two antiretrovirals, in addition to using condoms, has been estimated to cut HIV incidence among such men by 20-25 percent, WHO said, stressing that this could avert “up to one million new infections among this group over 10 years.”
The new guidelines also focus on other high-risk groups, pointing out that men who have sex with men, transgender people, prisoners, people who inject drugs and sex workers together account for about half of all new HIV infections worldwide.
U.S. authorities made a similar recommendation in May.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, when taken consistently, PrEP (brand name Truvada) has been shown to reduce the risk of HIV infection in people who are at high risk by up to 92 prep.