I wrote, a few months ago, about a revolutionary new drug, Truvada, that could reduce the risk of contracting HIV by striking percentages. The first studies were conducted with gay men, but researchers were hopeful that the results could be replicated with other populations. Sadly, though, it looks like women won’t benefit from this HIV prevention pill; researchers cut off a study of thousands of women when they discovered that women who take the pill are just as likely to contract HIV as women who were taking a placebo pill.
Early studies of Truvada among a population of 2,500 high-risk gay men showed that men who took the daily pill could reduce their risk of contracting HIV by up to 44 percent. The initial side-effects were mild, and while researchers were careful to stress that the drug was not a cure-all, and that work would still have to be done to improve awareness about contraception, sex education, and treatment, this could still be a huge boon for other high-risk populations. Truvada is already selling widely, with U.S. sales of $1.3 billion last year.
It seems, though, that women won’t be able to reap the new drug’s benefits. “The results are disappointing, and a little surprising, but not totally surprising,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. There may be medical reasons for why Truvada isn’t working for women, which have to do with the way that HIV is spread. But this doesn’t mean that tests on women need to end completely. “There are still too many unanswered questions for us to make any conclusions about the role of [using anti-HIV medications to prevent HIV] in women,” Fauci explained.
Photo from Wikimedia Commons.