SEATTLE — For the first time, a study shows that a drug used to treat HIV infection also can help prevent it when taken before and after sex between two men.
The results offer hope of a more appealing way to help prevent the disease beyond taking daily pills and using condoms, although those methods are still considered best.
The uninfected men who took it were 86 percent less likely to get HIV compared to men given dummy pills.
“That impressed me,” Dr. Scott Hammer said of the size of the benefit. He is an AIDS specialist at Columbia University in New York and heads the Retrovirus Conference going on in Seattle, where the results were discussed Tuesday.
Daily Truvada pills are used now to prevent HIV infection in people at high risk for it, and studies show the drug helps even when some doses are skipped. Health officials have been leery of billing it as a “chemical condom” out of fear that people will not use the best prevention methods, but many won’t use condoms all the time or take daily pills.
The study of Gilead Science’s Truvada was led by the French national HIV research agency.
Article continues belowMen were given fake or real Truvada and told to take two pills from two to 24 hours before sex, a third pill 24 hours later, and a fourth pill 48 hours after the first dose. The men also were given condoms and disease prevention counseling.
The study was stopped early, in November, after 400 men were enrolled and researchers saw that the drug was working; there were two new HIV infections among those on Truvada and 14 in those on dummy pills. The two infections in the Truvada group were in men who stopped using the pills after more than a year in the study.
The drug was safe, but nausea and diarrhea were more frequent among men who used it. Only one stopped using it because of side effects.