U.S – Two separate studies revealed that Truvada, the treatment manufactured by Gilead can potentially prevent HIV in individuals with higher risk of developing the infection. Based on the data provided by both studies, the pill seems to be working effectively. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Truvada may reduce the risk of HIV infection by 92 percent.

The Truvada pill was approved in the United States for “pre-exposure prophylaxis” (PrEP) of the AIDS – causing HIV – and can reduce the risks of the infection. It is for people who do not have the virus yet, but still are at substantial risk of getting it. People can prevent the infection by taking the treatment daily.

Photo: THOR SWIFT / New York Times

Two studies, one conclusion

The first study, from San Francisco, included 657 different men, mostly gay and bisexual, who used Truvada between 2012 and 2015. All of the participants were members of the Kaiser Permanente health care system and were around 20 to 68 years old.

During the evaluation time, the participants showed no new HIV infections, but half of them did show new sexually transmitted infections (STIs), which indicated that they were still conducting high risk actions.

Although the study can not ensure if the increase of STIs is somehow related with the use of the pill, doctors believe that it may be related with the fact that patients under evaluation, have to make more visits to the clinic, allowing doctors to find other infections. Moreover, a significant amount of patients said they were no longer using condoms, so gathering both STIs high rates and individuals who do not use condoms, new patients were supposed to appear with HIV infections, but that did not happen.

Dr. Jonathan Volk, an infectious disease physician at Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Medical Center and the study’s lead author said “It’s likely that without the pill we would have seen some new HIV infections.” Volk added, that it was impossible to know for sure how many HIV infections may have been prevented without comparing the data to a similar group of people not using the pill. This study was published in the Clinical Infectious Disease.

The second study was performed in the U.K, and it mainly focused in homosexual men. The data revealed that the ones who started on Truvada showed lower HIV infections than those who stopped taking the pill for a year.

The results suggested that 86 percent of the study population presented a decrease in the symptoms provided by the virus. Thus, the group who were able to take the pill presented one to two new HIV infections per 100 patients each year, while the other population showed nine new infections per 100 participants each year

“The impressive reduction in HIV incidence in people taking Truvada, without a measurable increase in other sexually transmitted infections, is reassuring for the clinical community, and public health stakeholders,” said Sheena McCormack, from the University College London, who took part in The Lancet Study.

None of the studies showed significant concerns with the use of daily oral Truvada. Although some of the participants presented side effects like upset stomach or loss of appetite, the irregularities were resolved in the first month of treatment.

Future visions

Since there is no cure or vaccine available for the HIV infection, prevention is the only way of dealing with it. Truvada can provide high levels of protection against the virus and according to both studies, it is even more effective when combined with prophylactics and other prevention measures.

Additionally, Volk suggests there should be further investigation, in order to learn how to get Truvada to other high risk populations, like transgender women. He said that he was satisfied to at least have an option to deal with the virus.

There are 50,00 new cases of HIV infections in the United States per year, according to CDC.

Source: Newsweek