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HIV Drug Could Reduce Risk of Genital Warts, Study Finds

Update Date: Jul 02, 2014 11:43 AM EDT

Truvada is a combination drug that treats and prevents HIV, the human immunodeficiency virus. According to a new study, this drug might also be able to reduce people's risk of getting genital herpes.

In this study, the researchers monitored the risk of getting herpes simplex 2 (HSV-2) in nearly 1,500 African heterosexual adults from Kenya and Uganda who did not have HIV or HSV-2 at the start of the study. The adults were considered high risk of acquiring HIV because they had an infected partner. The adults were given the drug tenofovir alone or in combination with the AIDS drug, emtricitabine. Truvada contains both drugs. Other participants were given a placebo. The enrollment portion of the study lasted from 2008 to 2010 and the researchers followed the participants up until 2011.

The researchers discovered that participants who took tenofovir alone had a 24 percent lower risk of getting HSV-2. People who took the combination of tenofovir and emtricitabine had a 36 percent reduced risk of acquiring HSV-2. Despite these findings, the researchers and experts believe that the effects of the drug are not strong enough to convince doctors' to use either drugs soley for HSV-2 prevention.

"It is beneficial that oral tenofovir can reduce the risk of acquiring genital herpes as well as HIV," said study lead author Dr. Connie Celum, director of the International Clinical Research Center at the University of Washington.

"No one is going to use tenofovir specifically to reduce herpes. There are some side effects and the drug is not cheap. It will only be used as prevention for HIV -- not herpes -- for high-risk people," said Dr. Myron Cohen, associate vice chancellor for Global Health at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine in Chapel Hill, reported by WebMD.

The research team plans on studying the effects of tenofovir in preventing HIV and herpes when given in the form of a vaginal and rectal gel and in a vaginal ring. The researchers also want to examine the effects of the drug in preventing herpes for patients already diagnosed with HIV.

The study was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

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