Monday, July 16th, 2012 marked a monumental milestone in the HIV/AIDS fight. The FDA approved Truvada, the first medication intended to aid in preventing HIV infection.
This is an exciting breakthrough, as it is the first time that studies have concluded that taking a drug before HIV exposure can actually prevent infection.
Truvada is now approved for pre-exposure prevention for individuals who test negative for HIV. In the past, the drug was used as an antiretroviral for patients that already had HIV. Now, more than ever, there is an increased hope to slow down this epidemic.
Truvada is a combination of two anti-HIV medications. It is recommended for use in conjunction with safe sex practices. It should not, however, be used as the sole method of HIV prevention.
According to USA Today, “A three-year study found that daily doses cut the risk of infection in healthy gay and bisexual men by 42%, when accompanied by condoms and counseling.”
Another study concluded that with consistent and daily use of Truvada, the rate of infection can be reduced by as much as 70 percent.
Side effects can include diarrhea, nausea, abdominal pain, headache, weight loss, and in rare instances, kidney problems or bone toxicity. Nonetheless, experts conclude that the benefits greatly outweigh the risks.
The Truvada website warns that the drug does not cure HIV or AIDS, and has not been shown to decrease the chance of transmitting the disease to others.
Even though Truvada has already been available and prescribed by doctors, the FDA’s approval will allow the marketing of the drug, which may ultimately contribute to increased prescribing and increased prevention.
The FDA approval of this drug is a big step in the right direction of prevention. However, it is important to remember that practicing safe sex and/or intravenous drug use is the best method for disease prevention.
Having good communication with your partner, participating in regular screenings, and utilizing condoms are positive methods to prevent the contraction and spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.