When Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome became an epidemic in the early 1980′s, no one knew where it came from, what caused it or how to cure this mystery disease. Thirty years later, we are still on a quest to cure HIV/AIDS. Yesterday, we took one step in the right direction with the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of the first preventative HIV treatment pill, Truvada.
Although Truvada, manufactured by Gilead Sciences Inc., has been on the market for sometime as an antiretroviral in other post-infection HIV treatments, recent research has proved that taking Truvada as a pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) can cut a patient’s risk of infection by 42 percent. That’s right, we’re talking by almost half!
Critics of the approval fear that people will use Truvada as a “get out of jail free card.” While a valid concern, the FDA states that in one trial study with 400 men who have sex with other men, there was no evidence in a rise of patients having unsafe sex. To this point, the FDA is taking steps to avoid such anomalies by requiring a holistic PrEP treatment program, including: taking Truvada daily, practicing safer sex, counseling on HIV risk reduction and regular HIV testing for high-risk patients.
As a control, the FDA is also requiring heavy screening of high-risk patients being prescribed the drug. Gilead is required to screen all patients who become infected with HIV while on Truvada and collect samples to test for potential resistance to the prophylactic. Another condition required is the collection of data on women taking the drug who become pregnant.
I have a feeling this approval is going to change the conversation at next week’s XIX International AIDS Conference, and I can’t wait to be a part of it. Follow me @RickiMac Tuesday through Thursday next week as I live blog and tweet from the conference. Want to join in the conference conversation? Follow the conference handle @aids2012 and hashtags #AIDS2012, #HIV and #AIDS.
So, what do you think? Do we have another 30 years before HIV/AIDS is eradicated from the Earth? Are we going to think of an HIV/AIDS vaccine just like a polio or MMR vaccine? Let’s talk – post your comments below!