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AIDS drugs may stop HIV transmission
November 23rd, 2010
08:01 AM ET

AIDS drugs may stop HIV transmission

Researchers have shown for the first time, that a  combination of two antiretroviral drugs taken daily reduces the risk of HIV transmission in men and transgendered women having sex with men.  In the study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, nearly 2,500 men were given either an oral combination of two widely used HIV medications  (emtricitabine and tenofovir) or a placebo. 

The risk of infection was reduced by almost 44 percent in the group getting the drugs. The risk was reduced even further– almost 73 percent –in study participants who took the drugs for most of the year.

"We now have strong evidence that pre-exposure prophylaxis with an antiretroviral drug, a strategy widely referred to as PrEP, can reduce the risk of HIV acquisition among men who have sex with men, a segment of the population disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS," says Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the Institutes of Health.

 "Additional research is needed, but certainly this is an important finding that provides the basis for further investigating, developing and employing this prevention strategy, which has the potential to make a significant impact in the fight against HIV/AIDS," Fauci tells CNN.

Researchers found people who took the PrEP pill regularly–at least 90 percent of the year –actually reduced their risk of infection by more than 70 percent.  Side effects were minor.  According to researchers, a small number of participants of the phase III trial experienced nausea. Slightly elevated creatinine levels were found,  but they were resolved spontaneously or once the drug was stopped.  Creatinine is a muscle waste product. It's measured in blood and urine and is an indication of your kidney function.

Researchers found no evidence of drug resistance.

Study participants were followed for up to three years.  All received HIV testing, condoms, and safe sex counseling and treatment for any sexually transmitted diseases.

Dr. Michael Saag, director, Center for AIDS Research at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and Immediate Past President of the HIV Medical Association is concerned about exposing uninfected people to drugs that he says are known to have potentially harmful side effects, no matter how uncommon, and whether it's cost effective. "With the limited resources around the U.S., I would much rather see us spend our money finding the 25% of people in the country who are HIV infected but don't know their status." 

Saag believes getting them tested and treated is more important. "Outside of the benefit to them for their own health there would be a definite prevention benefit to society because that 25 percent of people who don't know their status are responsible or over 60% of the new infections per year – roughly 30,000 new cases per year –  and to me it would be much more beneficial to put our efforts in that area before we start figuring out ways to pay for medicine to protect a relatively few number of new cases through PrEP," Saag says.

Fauci said while it's too early to recommend who should take PrEP, the study results are a proof of concept and should be looked at as another tool in the prevention basket.  Still, it's important, he says, to understand that this study looked at only one population, so additional information is needed.

Researchers say the study was conducted in men who have sex with men because they are disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS. In the U.S. alone, 53 percent of all new infections are in this population.


soundoff (123 Responses)
  1. Lou

    Spending tons of money on a totally preventable disease is a crime.

    November 23, 2010 at 15:14 | Report abuse | Reply
    • mikeMazzla

      So I assume you agree with not spending money on emphysema/lung cancer treatment? broken bones as a result of biking, mountain climbing or other high risk sport because its preventable? So we are only going to research and spend money on things that are preventable? Just because something is technically "preventable" doesnt mean we shoudl just ignore it

      November 23, 2010 at 15:43 | Report abuse |
  2. Danny

    magic johnson finally sharing his magic drug to the rest of the world?

    November 23, 2010 at 15:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. stacey

    MrsFizzy, why would I know that? My stance has NOTHING to do with religion...just people being "loose" then having to deal with the consequences.

    November 23, 2010 at 15:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. stacey

    MrsFizzy, why would I know that? My stance has NOTHING to do with religion...just people behaving in a gross manner then having to deal with the consequences.

    November 23, 2010 at 15:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Jim

    Use of the word "May" in a news report causes it to mean absolutley(Second most overblown word) nothing.....

    November 23, 2010 at 15:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Randy

    You know what else stops the spread of HIV among gay men? Stop sticking your thang in another man's rear. No need for drugs then.

    November 23, 2010 at 15:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Bob

    There's another way that's 100% guaranteed:

    STOP TAKING IT IN THE POOTER!!!!!

    November 23, 2010 at 16:06 | Report abuse | Reply
    • truthinrock

      Wow, I guess I need to call my aunt and let her know that when she was in surgery and given tainted blood she was also getting sodomized. Thanks for the info you idiot.

      November 23, 2010 at 17:27 | Report abuse |
  8. so what

    Why the need to show a pic of a loving couple (who appear to me to be males) with this story?

    November 23, 2010 at 16:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Anna Forbes

    Thanks for raising these important issues regarding use of ARVs for prevention.

    Even though the iPrEx trial focused on men and transwomen, there are additional issues that should be of concern, particularly to women, as we consider the possibility of PrEP. For more on these, please see http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/blog/2010/11/23/pill-prevent-what-iprex-results-mean-women.

    Thanks.

    Anna Forbes, MSS

    November 23, 2010 at 16:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Chris

    What if a drug was released that helped mostly white people? Everyone would be in a frenzy that it didn't help blacks!!! So they did the responsible thing and worked out the kinks.

    November 23, 2010 at 16:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. James Monaghan

    Great.

    Now ... how 'bout some SIGNIFICANT progress in CURING Cancer ... given the zillions poured into the scam known as "cancer reserach" for the past 40 years.

    Of course that's not the goal of big pharma and the government, medical communities and associations all receiving their kickbacks via big pharma. After-all a cured patient is no longer a customer. Oh and there's that thing about population control as well. The idea of treating the big C as a long term, managed condition only re-affirms big pharma's propensity to keep their cash cow, primed.

    November 23, 2010 at 17:24 | Report abuse | Reply
    • DeAguaDulce

      Then again, the scientist who discovered a cure would receive the Nobel Prize and tons of acclaim and would never let that pass him by. Nice try. Conspiracy thoerists often just cannot see that conspiracies always fall apart. Yes, people conspire to do evil, but someone always tell. The truth will out. Show some proof.

      November 23, 2010 at 18:12 | Report abuse |
  12. truthinrock

    Which of the drug companies held these studies? $1,000 a month for ONE medication is a huge payday if they can get everyone to take em.

    November 23, 2010 at 17:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. DeAguaDulce

    Last comment was for madpanda

    November 23, 2010 at 17:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. bobby

    @mark
    im sure you get this a lot, but you sir are an idiot.

    November 23, 2010 at 18:05 | Report abuse | Reply
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