Data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that more than one million Americans currently have HIV or acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) which HIV progresses to if untreated.
Antiretroviral drugs can provide a high level of protection against HIV for uninfected people in heterosexual couples in which the other partner has HIV.
The study, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, showed that taking the drugs which are normally used to treat people who are HIV positive, can reduce infection rates.
The study included more than 1,100 people not infected with HIV in Uganda who had partners with HIV. The participants were given pre-exposure prophylaxis drugs and received counseling support throughout the study to maintain their drug regimen.
The drug adherence rate was 97-99 percent in the study, which was published in the journal PLoS Medicine.
After 11 months, only 14 percent of partners had been infected with the sexually transmitted disease, according to STD testing. The findings provide further proof that strict adherence to antiretroviral pre-exposure prophylaxis drugs offers high levels of protection to uninfected people, Jessica Haberer of Harvard Medical School and colleagues told Health Day News.
According to AIDS.org, the researchers said that several previous studies in various groups (such as men who have sex with men, or women at high risk for HIV) have shown that taking antiretroviral drugs provided uninfected people with varying levels of protection against HIV. One possible explanation for the range of findings is different levels of adherence to the antiretroviral drugs.
Researchers believe that this study differed from similar past ones because it tracked participants' use of the drugs better.
"Proper support and assessment of adherence will be critical for determining efficacy of [pre-exposure prophylaxis] outside of clinical trials," WebMD credited the study authors as writing. "This data will be important for guiding ethical decisions about resource allocation for both prevention and treatment of HIV."