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FDA Approves Drug to Help Prevent HIV

Angela Monroe

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FDA Approves Drug to Help Prevent HIV

CREATED Jul. 16, 2012

The FDA has approved the first drug known to reduce the risk of HIV infection.
Truvada is one of the most frequently used drugs for the treatment of HIV, and now the FDA approved it for use in the prevention of HIV.
We spoke with a local doctor who has been treating HIV positive patients since the 1980s.

Dr. John Stansell says he has already prescribed Truvada to patients to prevent HIV infection.
"None of the people that I have treated in a preventative manner have actually acquired H-I-V, which my small subset is 100 percent effective," said Dr. Stansell, Associate Director of Internal Medicine at Eisenhower Health Center at Rimrock.
A company study showed the pill cut the risk of infection by 42 percent for gay or bisexual men, and by 75 percent for heterosexual couples.
But Dr. Stansell says the effectiveness is actually higher if people take the drug every single day, before having sexual contact.
"Only about 18 percent if I remember correctly actually took the drug, so if you looked at the protective effect in those people who actually had the drug on board at the time of analysis it was 96 percent effective," said Dr. Stansell.
We also spoke with Desert AIDS Project''s CEO, David Brinkman, about the first pill to help prevent HIV.
"If you take the human factor out of it, scientifically, it's really good news, you put the human factor in it, it gets complicated."
Complicated by the price, $14,000 a year, the fact it must be taken every day and side effects.
"Anything from nausea, kidney problems, to an increased acid amount in your bloodstream," said Brinkman.
Still, the science of fighting HIV has come a long ways since the 80s.
"The fact is that more people die of Hepatitis C now than die from H-I-V in this country, so we've come a long way, we have a long way to go, but we've come a long way," said Dr. Stansell.
And the Desert AIDS Project CEO reminds people to always use condoms - even if on Truvada - and get tested for HIV.
"This is an opportunity to remind people that the infection rate in the Palm Springs area is 300 percent higher than the national average, that there's a new infection in our country every nine and a half minutes, everybody should know their H-I-V status," said Brinkman.
The Desert AIDS Project CEO says everyone should be tested for HIV at least once a year.
There are 29 test sites in the valley.