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Surprising Science

FDA to Approve Drug for HIV Prevention

An expert committee has recommended that a drug trade-named Truvada be offered daily to gay men and people living with infected partners to prevent them from catching HIV. 

What’s the Latest Development?

An expert committee at the Food and Drug Administration has recommended that an antiviral drug trade-named Truvada be offered daily to uninfected people to prevent them from catching HIV. The drug, which combines two antiviral drugs called tenofovir and emtricitabine, is currently available only to those who have already contracted the virus. The first beneficiaries of the drug’s extended license are likely to be homosexual men and uninfected partners in relationships where one of the pair already has the virus. “The FDA will make a final decision on whether to approve Truvada for ‘pre-exposure prophylaxis’ by 15 June.”

What’s the Big Idea?

While we do not yet have a vaccine against HIV, the approval of Truvada for preventative use may be the next best thing. In a 2010 study, homosexual men who took Truvada reduced their risk of HIV contraction by 44%. In another study completed in Kenya and Uganda, researchers wanted to know if the drug could stop the virus from spreading in couples where one partner carried the disease but the other did not. “It found that Truvada given to the uninfected partner reduced their risk of infection by 73 per cent.” The drug should act in concert with other preventative measures, including condoms, safe sex and male circumcision. 

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