Major CDC Shift: Use Pill to Block AIDS
Advice for at-risk groups is big policy shift
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted May 15, 2014 4:42 AM CDT
Dr. Lisa Sterman holds up a Truvada pill at her office in San Francisco.   (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
camera-icon View 1 more image

(Newser) – With HIV infection rates stubbornly high for a decade and condom use actually decreasing, federal health officials now recommend groups most at risk of AIDS start taking a daily pill. The Truvada pill has been shown to vastly reduce infection rates and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's advice for certain groups—including gay men who have sex without condoms, those who inject illicit drugs and share equipment, and heterosexuals with at-risk partners—marks a big and controversial shift in policy, the New York Times finds. The drug combination, which costs around $13,000 a year, is usually covered by insurance. There are currently only around 10,000 people taking it in the US, but that could leap to 500,000 under the CDC's advice.

The CDC says the pill should only be used in conjunction with condoms, but health officials acknowledge that—as the 50,000 new infections per year show—there are many people who simply will not follow that advice. "Making the perfect the enemy of the good is something we’ve got to get over," says Anthony Fauci, one of the nation's top AIDS doctors. "I strongly support the CDC doing this." But some groups, including the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, oppose the move because they fear patients will fail to follow the drug regime as directed and more of them will abandon condoms, causing the spread of other sexually transmitted diseases, Bloomberg reports. "The CDC has abandoned a science-driven, public health approach to disease prevention—a move that will likely have catastrophic consequences in the fight against AIDS in this country," says the group's director.