For the first time in history, the FDA has officially approved a drug shown to reduce the risk of contracting HIV. According to USA Today, the pill Truvada is approved as a preventative measure for people who are at high-risk of contracting the disease through sexual activity, like those with partners who are HIV positive. The drug was already on the market as a way to manage the virus for people living with HIV.
Since 2010, studies have reported that a daily dose of Truvada helps reduce the risk of transmission by 42% in non-heterosexual men, but of course this is not without the use of the ol’ condom. It seems no drug can surpass the protectiveness of this genius invention. Another study found that the Truvada reduced transmission by 75% among heterosexual couples, again accompanied with counseling and condoms, USA Today reports. FDA approval for this new use of Truvada will likely increase prescriptions. And it comes as timely news for the International AIDS Conference in Washington this month- the first time it’s been hosted in the U.S. in 22 years due to the Obama administration lifting the two decade ban that prevented people living with HIV to enter the country.
Still, there are HIV/AIDS activists who reacted to this news with cautious optimism. Some worry about a false sense of security that may arise with the prescription. Roland Johnson of the AIDS United told Linda Vilarosa from The Root news that while this is a step in the right direction, it is not a silver bullet. “…This isn’t something that you can take every once in a while when you’re going out. It does not replace safer sex and must be used in conjunction with consistent practices, including condom usage.”
This comes at a time when public, private, government and non-government organizations join together this month to re-engage in the fight to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic. According to the Center for Disease Control, an estimated 1.2 million in the U.S. live with HIV and one in five of American do not know about their infection. The AIDS epidemic continues to affect more than 34 million people worldwide, of which over two million are children under the age of 15. According to the United Nations, there were 1.7 million AIDS-related deaths last year, down from 2.3 million in 2005.
The Truvada pill is part of a medical strategy known as pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrPE, to reduce the spread of the disease. How this pill will be accessed and made available, and how it is used across different communities around the world is yet to be understood.