There is good news about HIV. Of course, as we’ve learned, you have to be skeptical about any HIV breakthroughs. A baby who was previously thought to be cured has shown HIV again, as has a man who was thought to be cured by a bone marrow transplant. Still, it’s something that we have to keep exploring because of the damage that the disease can and continues to do.
Now, they are starting to introduce HIV pills, which may be a landmark treatment option. A study has recently shown that the drug works, and it does not encourage riskier sex. In fact, it has been shown to be effective, even when people skip doses.
The research was introduced at the International AIDS conference in Melbourne, Australia, and this was published as well in the British journal Lancet Infectious Diseases.
The study included 1600 gay men and transgender women, a group that continues to be seen as being higher risk, whether or not that is actually true. Participants took a daily dose of the drug Truvada, finding it decreased the risk of contracting HIV. Subjects were offered free pills, and 3/4 of them took it. All subjects were studied for 17 months.
When taking the pills at least 4 days a week, none of the subjects became infected. Even when using the pills just 2-3 days a week, they significantly lowered the risk of infection than when not taken at all. Doctors didn’t just rely on subjects’ reports. They actually conducted blood tests.
Lead study author Dr Robert Grant, an AIDS expert at the Gladstone Institutes, says,
There’s a demand, there’s some forgiveness for missed doses. And it’s safe.
This doesn’t mean that people shouldn’t use other preventative measures. Condoms are actually the best way to prevent an HIV infection. As you may have noticed though, people don’t always use condoms. So it’s not a bad idea to have backup.
There are plenty of fear mongerers who have suggested that (like slut shaming), Truvada will just give people more sexual freedom and make them more promiscuous, but this does not shake out. Study participants were no more promiscuous, and there was no greater risk of syphilis or herpes. The study gathered subjects from South America, the United States, Africa, and Thailand.
As of now, Dr Lisa Sterman believes that Truvada is a real option, and it is already being sold. It combines tenofovir and emtricitabine. The wholesale price is $800 a month in the US, but there are also generic versions available in other countries that cost as little as 31 cents a day in Africa.