In an attempt to slow the spread of HIV, California will test an HIV prevention pill, utilizing “high-risk” individuals as volunteer test subjects.
Details after the jump.
The pill, currently sold under the brand name, Truvada, is a Food and Drug Administration-approved drug for HIV treatment. It has not previously been sold as a method of HIV prevention.
However, a 2010 study published in The New England Journal of Medicine found that the pill reduced the risk of contracting HIV by 44 percent and 73 percent, depending on participants’ rate of usage.
The pill will be prescribed to 700 gay and bisexual men and transgender women in Los Angeles, San Diego and Long Beach who are high-risk but not infected with HIV.
George Lemp, director of the California HIV/AIDS Research Program with the University of California president's office, says, "With this new prevention pill, we have another intervention to put in the arsenal to try and impact this epidemic.”
According to The Seattle Times, "The California HIV/AID Research program awarded $11.8 million in state grants for the prevention pill studies and efforts to get about 3,000 HIV-infected people in Southern California into treatment and keep them there."
The director of San Diego's study, Dr. Richard Haubrich of the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, notes that “the biggest impediment is people taking their medicine.”
In San Diego, researchers plan to use text messages to remind people to take their pill. In Los Angeles, researchers plan to regularly measure the level of the drugs in participants' blood. Those who receive the pill will also participate in counseling and regular screening for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
The decision to use this prevention technique, known as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), on the “high-risk group” appears to have been mandated by cost.
A Stanford University study, published in The Annals of Internal Medicine, “shows that giving the pill to the general MSM population would cost nearly $500 Billion, whereas targeting only high risk sectors drops the price by more than 80 percent.”
It’s estimated that the costs of the pill comes in at $26 a day.
Jessie Juusola, a PhD candidate in management science and engineering in the School of Engineering and first author of the study explains, "Promoting PrEP to all men who have sex with men could be prohibitively expensive ... Adopting it for men who have sex with men at high risk of acquiring HIV, however, is an investment with good value that does not break the bank."
So Instincters, if this works, will the gays be popping PrEP pills like women pop birth control? Assuming the costs go down?
How would the use of this type of pill affect condom usage?