There are two new studies that suggest giving anti-retroviral drugs to heterosexuals that are at high risk of contracting HIV may significantly reduce the chance that it will develop into full-blown AIDS. Giving heterosexuals the anti-retroviral drugs while their immune system is still healthy reduced the risk of getting HIV from their infected partners by as much as 63 percent. The method of using anti-retroviral drugs in this manner is known as PrEP, or pre-exposure prophylaxis.
There was earlier research conducted that found PrEP reduced HIV transmission among gay and bisexual men. It was not then known until the recent studies how this work among heterosexuals. A clinical trial involving heterosexual participants that was reported last May indicated that HIV transmission between an infected person and a sex partner could be reduced by as much as 90 percent if anti-retroviral drug treatment is started while the immune system is still healthy.
The two new studies were conducted in Africa. One of the studies was conducted by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in collaboration with the Botswana Ministry of Health. It involved around 1,219 HIV-negative men and women given either a daily dose of an anti-retroviral combination drug called Truvada or a placebo. All of the test subjects were also provided with HIV prevention services which included condoms, testing and treatment foe sexually transmitted diseases as well as risk reduction counseling.
Over the course of the study, 9 participants who took Truvada eventually became HIV positive as compared to 24 of those who took a placebo. According to the researchers, that is equivalent to a 62.6 percent reduced risk for those who were taking Truvada. For those who continued to take the pill, the risk reduction increased to 77.9 percent.
The other study, called the Partners PrEP Study, was conducted by researchers from the University of Washington and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The said study trial, which was conducted in Kenya and Uganda involved 4,758 couples with one partner known to be HIV positive. Partners without HIV were randomly given a single drug in Viread, a combination drug in Truvada, or a placebo. Over the period of the study, it was found out that there were 78 HIV infections that occurred- 18 from the Viread group, 13 from the Truvada group and 47 from the placebo group.
“This is an extremely exciting finding for the field of HIV prevention,” according to Dr. Jared Baeten, co-chair of the latter study and a University of Washington associate professor of global health. “Now, more than ever, the priority for HIV prevention research must be on how to deliver successful prevention strategies, like PrEP, to populations in greatest need,” Baeten further added in his statement.