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HIV Drug Could Prevent the Virus in Drug Users

Update Date: Jun 13, 2013 09:47 AM EDT

HIV is a deadly and incurable disease that can be caused by unprotected sex, unsterilized needle usage, and other risky behaviors. Although modern day treatments for HIV have improved a great deal, giving infected people a long life to live, preventing infection is extremely vital in keeping the global and local community safe. In a new study, researchers found that one of the high-risk groups for infection might have a new preventative care method to lower their chances of getting HIV. This group, the needle-using drug addicts could lower their likelihood of getting the virus if they take a daily drug meant for treating AIDS.

This study was headed by researchers from Thailand who worked with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Thai government. The research team recruited 2,400 drug users and randomly assigned the antiretroviral pill to half of the group while the other group acted as the control and received a placebo. The researchers found that the group that took the daily tenofovir pill, which is part of a therapy called pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), experienced a reduction in infections by 49 percent. This group also was 74 percent less likely to get infected with HIV.

PrEP therapy involves taking tenofovoir or tenofovoir in conjunction with another drug every day. Sometimes this form of therapy also requires the patients to use antiretroviral-laced vaginal gels right before sexual intercourse. For pregnant and infected mothers, some more antiretroviral drugs might need to be taken before birth.

"This is an exciting day," the director of H.I.V prevention for the CDC in Atlanta, GA, Dr. Jonathan Mermin said reported by the New York Times. "This culminates a decade of PrEP research."

In order to work with drug users who are known to be unreliable, the researchers gave each participant a modest payment if they took their daily medication in front of the nurses. The researchers were worried since drug users have been known for selling life-time saving drugs. The researchers gave the participants $8.75 every month that they remained in the experiment and an additional $8.75 per week when they showed up each day. The participants also received $1.90 for each day that they arrived at the clinic.

The researchers found that 87 percent of the drugs were taken everyday. The participants that were more reliable were older than 40-years-old and were mostly women. The researchers singled out the results for participants who took the pills the majority of the time. They found that for gay men, the protective rate was 92 percent. The other protective effects were 90 percent for couples with one infected partner and 84 percent for heterosexual people, and around 70 percent for drug injectors.

These findings are important because they suggest that there are preventative measures that could be extremely effective. The problem here is to encourage and to get people, like drug users, to use the drugs everyday. The study was published in The Lancet.

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