Health and Wellness

A gay man who took PrEP ‘on-demand’ has contracted HIV

Dr. Lisa Sterman holds up a Truvada pill, an HIV treatment pill used to prevent infection in people at high risk of getting the AIDS virus. Photo: Jeff Chiu, AP

A man in Australia said that his doctors were shocked when he got HIV despite taking an “on-demand” regimen of PrEP.

Steven Spencer, 27, said that he was diagnosed this past December.

“I was in complete shock, as were my doctors,” he said.

“What happened to me doesn’t change the fact that PrEP is still the most powerful HIV preventative we have ever had,” he added.

PrEP is more than 99% effective when taken as directed, and its effectiveness has been demonstrated in multiple clinical trials.

Related: United Healthcare denies gay man medication due to ‘high risk homosexual behavior’

There is also growing support for on-demand use of the medication.

One study on on-demand use described the system: “2 pills of Truvada within 24 to 2 hours prior first sexual intercourse, then 1 pill every 24 hours during the period of sexual activity with one pill after the last sexual intercourse, and one last pill 24 hours later.”

“Taking PrEP only around the time of sexual events allows for fewer tablets to be taken overall, resulting in less exposure to medication, potentially fewer side-effects, and lower costs,” said Darren Russell, clinical adviser for Australasian Society for HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine.

There have been other cases where people have taken PrEP conscientiously and still contracted HIV, and Spencer said that he wanted to come forward to prevent the spread of misinformation.

Spencer said that this is “one of the toughest periods of my life.” His viral load, he said, is currently undetectable.

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