1st HIV-Prevention Pill Gets OK—But It's Complicated

Truvada promising, but some worry it won't be taken correctly
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 17, 2012 7:11 AM CDT
In this Thursday, May 10, 2012 photo, Dr. Lisa Sterman holds up a Truvada pill at her office in San Francisco.   (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

(Newser) – A big milestone came in the fight against AIDS yesterday, when the FDA approved the first drug meant for HIV prevention—but there are quite a few issues to consider. Truvada, which has been on the market for years as a means of treating those who already have the virus, can now be marketed as a preventative drug as well. It's been shown to be highly effective—it can lower a person's chances of getting HIV by 90% if taken correctly, NPR reports—but it must be taken every day, and some experts worry patients won't use it correctly, the AP notes.

Others worry that people on Truvada will stop taking other preventative measures—such as limiting sexual partners and using condoms, the most reliable way to guard against HIV infection. The drug is most effective for people at high risk (like an HIV-negative person in a relationship with an HIV-positive partner) who take it consistently, and it must be coupled with regular HIV tests, counseling, and other preventative measures. "It's not just, 'Here's a pill, take it, and you're rendered protected," says a researcher. Another concern: Truvada, which costs almost $14,000 a year, may not be accessible to one of the highest-risk groups—people without health insurance.

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