A pill a day cut the risk of HIV infection by almost 44 percent in those at highest risk for contracting the virus, namely sexually active gay and bisexual men, a new study finds. The reduction in risk climbed to nearly 73 percent among study participants who took the pill, called Truvada, 90 percent of the time, the researchers added. Truvada is already available by prescription in the United States as a treatment for HIV-infected people.
The pill, which was tested in over 2,500 men at 11 sites in six countries worldwide, combines two HIV antiretroviral medications, emtricitabine (Emtriva) and tenofovir (Viread). Experts are hailing the results as a big step in the worldwide effort to combat the spread of the HIV virus, which infected some 2.7 million people worldwide in 2008. And it adds to other efforts to prevent spread, such as a topical gel containing tenofovir that was found last summer to be effective in preventing HIV infection in women in southern Africa.
"These results represent a major advance in HIV prevention research," Dr. Kevin Fenton, director of the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD & TB Prevention at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a statement. "For the first time, we have evidence that a daily pill used to treat HIV is partially effective for preventing HIV among gay and bisexual men at high risk for infection, when combined with other prevention strategies. Given the heavy burden of HIV among gay and bisexual men, a new tool with potential additive benefit is exciting and welcome news."