Antiretrovirals help prevent HIV infections30th November 2010
US researchers have published the first ever trial in which drugs administered to treat AIDS also appear to prevent the spread of HIV.
Lead author Robert Grant, a researcher at the University of California in San Fransisco, said the study provided the first proof that drugs would be able to prevent new HIV infections.
The researchers found that Truvada, the anti-retroviral administered to their study subjects, reduced HIV infection rates by nearly 75%, even when the subjects skipped doses.
Truvada is a single tablet drug that combines emtricitabine and tenofovir disoproxil fumarate.
The drug has been used in HIV therapy regimes since 2002.
The study subjects, who numbered about 2,500, included men from the US, Brazil, Ecuador, Thailand, and South Africa, all of whom were sexually active with other men.
All of the study subjects were at high risk for contracting HIV.
None of the study subjects carried any HIV antibodies at the beginning of the study, indicating that they became infected as the study progressed.
For the men who took antiretrovirals most of the time, there was a 73% decrease in HIV infection risk.
In men who took excess quantities of the drugs, there was a 92% decreased risk of becoming infected.
Although intellectual property laws make the drug very expensive in the US, where the study took place, there is a generic version available in other countries that costs a fraction of that price.
Grant said that the drug would only work if people used it consistently, and that it would be a very good backup for people to use as a first line of defence, in combination with condoms.
Grant Colfax, director of HIV prevention at the San Francisco Department of Public Health, said that the study was extremely exciting, and full of promising results.
He said people needed to work out how the finding could be used to provide HIV protection in communities around the world.
The researchers said that the drug would also be welcome in developing countries where HIV infections were widespread.
Dan Van Gorder, executive director of Project Inform in San Francisco, said that although the therapy appeared to have great promise, he felt the world was at a crossroads, and that AIDS-prevention efforts lacked the adequate support and funding worldwide.
The drug had some side effects, including headache and nausea.
Researchers are fairly certain, however, that the drug does not present people with any long-term complications.
Susan Buchbinder, director of HIV research for the San Francisco Department of Public Health, said that the study marked the first exciting step forward, and that researchers would be very interested in data on Truvada in the future.
She said that, in San Fransisco, there was more than one new infection per day, and that communities needed more tools with which to fight the spread of HIV.
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Title: Antiretrovirals help prevent HIV infections
Author: Luisetta Mudie
Article Id: 16876
Date Added: 30th Nov 2010