Health and Wellness

Study: HIV drug can prevent new infection when taken before and after sex

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Dr. Susan Buchbinder, an AIDS specialist at the San Francisco Department of Public Health, called the results exciting but warned that it can’t be assumed they would apply to male-female sex, because different types of sex expose partners to differing amounts of virus.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still recommends daily Truvada pills for prevention, and many men in the French study ended up taking them nearly that often because of how frequently they had sex, said the CDC’s HIV prevention chief, Dr. Jonathan Mermin.

“We need all the options we can get” for preventing HIV infection, Mermin said. “People choose different prevention methods. What we want is for them to choose effective ones and to use them regularly.”

One advocate for wider use of prevention pills – Damon Jacobs, a New York City psychotherapist – agreed.

For years, the public health message was “condoms only, condoms only, condoms only,” he said in a speech at the conference. “People are having sex for pleasure” and need alternate ways to reduce their risk, Jacobs said.

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A second study presented at the conference by the U.K. Medical Research Council found that daily use of Truvada cut the risk of infection by 86 percent in a “real world” test of gay men aware they were taking Truvada for HIV prevention.

Researchers assigned 545 gay men to get Truvada right away or a year later. The study was stopped in October after HIV infections occurred in only three men given Truvada but in 19 of those assigned to get it after a year.

As in the French study, rates of other sexually spread diseases were similar in both groups, leading researchers to conclude that use of the prevention pills was not increasing risky behavior.

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