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Every Day HIV-Prevention Pill Recommended for at risk People

Update Date: May 16, 2014 09:34 AM EDT
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HIV, which stands for the human immunodeficiency virus, is an incurable sexually transmitted infection (STI) that attacks the immune system. In order to prevent the spread of the virus, health experts have encouraged people to practice safe sex by using condoms and limiting the number of sexual partners. Now, health experts have added another preventive measure. According to the latest guidelines compiled by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people who are at high risk of HIV could benefit from taking a pill.

CDC's recommendations state that people who are considered high risk of contracting the virus should follow the pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) method. This decision was made after the CDC reviewed numerous studies that were conducted nationally and internationally. The findings from these studies revealed that taking a PrEP pill every day could help lower infection rates by over 90 percent.

People who are considered high risk for HIV tend to have sex without a condom and have a relationship with an HIV-positive partner. High-risk people also include gay or bisexual men who recently contracted a STI and are not in a mutually exclusive relationship or heterosexual men or women who do not have a mutually exclusive partner and have sex without a condom. Aside from sex-related risks, a person who used drugs or shared needles within the past six months has a high risk of HIV as well.

"While a vaccine or cure may one day end the HIV epidemic, PrEP is a powerful tool that has the potential to alter the course of the U.S. HIV epidemic today," Dr. Jonathan Mermin, director of the CDC's National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention, said reported in CNN. "These guidelines represent an important step toward fully realizing the promise of PrEP. We should add to this momentum, working to ensure that PrEP is used by the right people, in the right way, in the right circumstances."

The PrEP pill is called Truvada, which is made from the combination of two antiretroviral drugs. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Truvada in 2004 as a form of HIV treatment. It is currently the only approved medication for PrEP. Despite this recommendation of daily use, the pill is quite expensive. A one-month supply is around $1,300 to $1,700. Most insurance plans will cover the bill.

"[It's] one that benefits not only the individual patient at risk for HIV infection but also will help to reduce the number of new HIV infections across the United States," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, an immunologist and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health. "It should be used together with -- and complementary to -- condoms and not as a substitute for condoms."

The new guidelines also provide more information about PrEP for doctors and patients. Doctors will receive a step-by-step checklist designed to help them support their patients. The guidelines titled "Preexposure Prophylaxis for the Prevention of HIV Infection in the United States - 2014," can be found here.

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