Anti-HIV Pill Guidelines Changed To Include Straight Men And Women
August 10, 2012

Anti-HIV Pill Guidelines Changed To Include Straight Men And Women

Connie K. Ho for — Your Universe Online

U.S. health officials recently issued recommendations to physicians with heterosexually-active patients considering the use of Truvada, a pill that can reduce the risk of the HIV virus for people engaging in sexual intercourse. The pill was originally only advised to be given to high-risk gay and bisexual men.

The news is of particular interest to straight people who make up 25% of new HIV cases every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Since 2004, Truvada has been used in treating patients with AIDS. In January 2011, the pill had been approved as safe and partially effective for homosexual and bisexual men in a CDC interim published guide. As well, the pill hasn´t been recommended to all sexually active people. Experts recommend its use be limited to those at very high risk, such as couples that have one person infected with HIV.”

“That´s not a portion of the epidemic we want to ignore,” remarked author Dr. Dawn Smith, CDC expert, in a BBC article on the decision to increase Truvada to other populations.

In terms of costs, the Truvada pill can cost between $6,000 and $12,000 per year. The pill is taken once a day. The investigators state that some private insurance companies and Medicaid programs are willing to cover the expense. Furthermore, the CDC will release comprehensive guidelines for use of Truvada by the end of the year and have already published guidelines on using drugs for preventing HIV risk among heterosexuals.

“This provides another tool that providers can use for HIV prevention,” commented Smith, also a biomedical interventions implementation officer, in an article by Bloomberg. “It will always need to be targeted at people who are very high risk. It requires a lot of work.”

Experts believe that prevention methods still need to be developed.

“It´s still very early days,” explained Mitchell Warren, the executive director of AVAC: Global Advocacy for AIDS prevention, in the Bloomberg article. ℠℠It´s not as if anyone is out there actively promoting it. Even with the FDA approval, the most important next steps are the demonstration projects, to really help us understand how to deliver [prophylaxis medication (PrEP)], to whom we can best deliver and motivate adherent use, and really add public health impact.”

In the CDC interim guidelines, two different studies described how the method of Truvada helps prevent HIV from creating a permanent infection with the production of new viruses. However, the long-term safety for adults and pregnant users´ hasn´t been completely identified. The guidelines recommend that physicians inform their patients that the pill has to be taken consistently, and that it should be used along with regular screening and other sexual disease prevention methods like condoms.

On July 16, the drug was first approved for reducing the risk of HIV infection. According to the CDC, common side effects of the drug include abdominal pain, diarrhea, headache, nausea, and weight loss. Truvada is manufactured by Gilead Sciences, Inc.