Is there a drug that can prevent HIV?
Recent news of celebrity Charlie Sheen’s diagnosis of HIV has brought treatment options for the disease into the spotlight.
Despite no cure for HIV, the disease is no longer considered a death sentence due to medical advancements. There are antiviral drugs that can help manage the disease. Sheen is one of the patients taking antiviral drugs for the disease – up to four pills every day. Nowadays, people infected with HIV can live full and healthy lives as long as they take their medications regularly.
A therapy similar to what’s used to treat the disease can be also be used to protect people from getting infected with HIV.
“A pill, Truvada, and the prevention approach, called pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, is a prevention option for people who are at high risk of getting HIV,” says Dr. Robert Citronberg, director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill.
Since the therapy was approved, some critics have worried it may encourage risky behavior such as having sex without a condom or having multiple sex partners, which could cause HIV infections to rise.
However, a new study published in JAMA Internal Medicine showed that prescribing PrEP to people at risk dropped their rates of HIV dramatically. In the study, 437 men and transgender women took PrEP for nearly a year. Only two became HIV positive, but both showed extremely low levels of the drug in their blood, suggesting that they took only half of their required doses.
Even more encouraging, the study found that the drug did not make users more promiscuous or more reckless.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, PrEP is meant to be used consistently as a pill taken every day, and to be used with other prevention options such as condoms.
“This medication is not a magic pill, but when it’s used as part of a comprehensive education program, it actually can drastically reduce the chance of people getting HIV infection,” Dr. Citronberg said in a recent interview with WGN-TV Morning News. “If you are engaging in high-risk behaviors and believe you may be at risk of getting HIV, you should see an infectious disease specialist to see if this therapy option would be right for you.”
To learn more about the advancement of HIV treatment options, listen to Dr. Citronberg’s full interview with WGN News here.
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health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.