A new drug has been approved by the FDA this week that lowers the risk of contracting HIV from a partner. The drug, named Truvada, is designed to be taken by people who are at high risk of contracting the virus but have not tested positive for it. There were mixed reactions about the decision to release Truvada over the last few months because the daily pill is not a cure-all for those at risk, and isn’t designed to be taken alone by those who already have HIV.
Critics are concerned that the pill will foster a false sense of security in those who are at risk, thereby actually making the likelihood of the disease spreading that much greater, the BBC reports. The pill must be used along with all the regular preventative measures, such as condoms and safe sex practices. Some studies have shown an increase in riskier sex practices because the drug offers the false allure of total protection.
Experts state that Truvada is ideal for those who are HIV-negative and have a partner who is not consistently taking antiretroviral drugs, which traditionally makes it much less likely that the virus will be transmitted to the healthy partner.
Many commentators point out that the drug is not going to be right for everyone and probably won’t be the most popular form of treatment or prevention. In rare cases, the drug can offer an amazing option for couples in a tough situation. NPR points out that women who want to conceive a child with an HIV-positive partner could accomplish this goal and have a healthy child by taking Truvada.
The downside to this miraculous and pathbreaking new drug? It costs quite a bit to procure at about $13,000 a year, according to an estimate by NPR. People hoping to take the drug may have variable luck getting insurance companies to help out with the cost of the new medicine.
Those who hope to take the drug must be tested for HIV and receive a negative test result. They must also be regularly tested every couple of months. This precaution has been included because HIV can become resistant to Truvada very quickly if a patient takes the medicine while he or she is unaware they are HIV-positive, the Examiner notes.
The drug does show a 75 percent decrease in the rate of contracting the virus in heterosexual couples where one person had HIV and the other was negative, USA Today points out. That number sits at 42 percent for gay couples when accompanied with safe sex practices and regular, reliable application of the drug. This treatment was approved the same month as the first at-home HIV test was also approved by the FDA.
Photo Credit: Jeffrey Beall