People at high risk for HIV, or human immunodeficiency virus, can now take a daily pill to protect themselves from the potentially deadly virus.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently issued an official recommendation saying that people at high risk of contracting HIV can take a combination of two medicines called pre-exposure prophylaxis. PrEP is known to help prevent infection of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center said the pill Truvada contains two antiretroviral medicines that are also used in combination with other drugs to treat HIV.
Numerous studies have shown people who take the daily pill consistently have a substantially lower risk of getting HIV than those who don’t.
The CDC guidelines say PrEP should be taken daily by people who are at high risk for contracting HIV. These include:
- Gay men who have sex without condoms
- Heterosexuals with high-risk partners such as drug injectors
- Male bisexuals who have unprotected sex
- Patients who regularly have sex with anyone they know is infected
- Anyone who shares needles or injects drugs
The guidelines said that patients should have an HIV test before starting the regimen, to ensure that they are not already infected. Patients should also be retested every three months to be sure that they are still HIV negative, that they are not developing side effects from the drug, and that they have not caught any other sexually transmitted diseases.
"While a vaccine or cure may one day end the HIV epidemic, PrEP is a powerful tool that has the potential to alter the course of the U.S. HIV epidemic today," Dr.Jonathan Mermin, director of the CDC's National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention told CNN.com.
Already used by AIDS patients to prevent the disease from progressing, the pill was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2012 for preventative measures.
According to NBC News, the recommendation followed a 2010 study which found that Truvada was more than 90 percent effective at preventing HIV infections among those who took the drugs.