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HIV prevention: FDA approves Truvada

Brenda Buescher, MPH, is a public health professional based in Johnson City, Tennessee. She has worked on state and federal health policy in Washington, DC, and North Carolina. You can read her blog about community health at http://poli...

HIV prevention pill

AIDS advocacy organizations and patient care providers are celebrating a new advance in HIV prevention – a pill called Truvada.
Truvada pills

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently approved Truvada, which is the first drug proven to reduce the risk of HIV infection. It helps protect HIV-negative people from becoming infected with HIV if they have sexual contact with an HIV-positive partner.

A pill is the new weapon in HIV prevention

There are currently 1.1 million people living with HIV in the United States, and 50,000 more people are diagnosed each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Even scarier, 1 in 5 people with HIV don’t know they are infected. For public health advocates who are fighting the spread of HIV, Truvada is an exciting new development. In clinical trials, Truvada was tested with nearly 5,000 couples (one partner was infected with HIV, the other was not), and it reduced the risk of HIV infection by 75 percent for the uninfected partner.

Safe sex -- not a pill -- is key to prevention

But FDA officials are clear that Truvada isn’t a magic pill. Patients who take Truvada must still be careful about practicing safe sex: using condoms and limiting the number of sexual partners they have. And Ronald Johnson, vice president of policy and advocacy at AIDS United, urged policymakers to consider “issues of affordability and accessibility to those who can benefit from Truvada.” For now, the drug is expensive and may be out of reach for men and women who are most vulnerable to HIV.

What you need to know about Truvada

  • Truvada is for people who are HIV-negative but who are at high risk of getting HIV (your sexual partner is HIV-positive, for example).
  • You must have an HIV test before you can get a prescription for Truvada, and you have to repeat the test every three months while you are taking the drug.
  • To effectively prevent HIV, Truvada must be taken daily. Just like oral contraceptives, if you miss a dose, Truvada will not provide full protection.
  • The known side effects of Truvada are diarrhea, nausea, abdominal pain, headache and weight loss.
  • As with any drug or medical treatment, the best way to learn if Truvada is right for you is to discuss it with your doctor.

Sources:

U.S. Food and Drug Administration
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
AIDS United

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