About 10 years ago, PrEP (or pre-exposure prophylaxis) was introduced to the world, making it easier for people to lower their risk of being infected with HIV.
This once-a-day pill seemed like the perfect answer. The problem?
Not everybody remembers to take their once-a-day pill, and missing a dose can reduce its effectiveness in protecting you from the virus.
Researchers may have come up with an answer to his problem, with an injectable PrEP that’s given every eight weeks. In a three-year, real-world study, results have shown that people who received the single-shot every couple of months saw a 65% decline in HIV risk than those using the daily pill regimen.
According to the study’s author Dr. Raphael Landovitz, the difference in effect stems from the coverage of sex acts. Simply put, a patient who fails to remember their PrEP as prescribed will see the effectiveness decrease. However, the same patient with the long-lasting PrEP shot is guaranteed to have protection for two months should they become intimate with someone.
UCLA professor of medicine Landovitz worked with a team of researchers to develop this injectable PrEP, using it on over 4,500 patients that fit the criteria
Half were given the Truvada and Descovy pills for their antiretroviral drugs, with the other having getting the single shot of cabotegravir.
After three years, 52 patients were diagnosed with HIV (39 in the pill group, 13 from the injection group).
Landovitz said the injection pill was designed to solve the adherence issue, but it also addressed another one – discretion.
Regardless of how it’s taken, PrEP is an empowering idea as it allows people who may or may not have a choice in having sex some protection against HIV. For some people, the very idea of using condoms is taboo, even though it’s one of the best protection against HIV.
With the shots, there’s no need to carry a pill bottle or people making judgments against you on why you are taking it. It could even lead to partners becoming upset about the prospect.
According to Landovitz, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is currently looking at the data and could give an answer by early 2022. Cabotegravir would be the first of many injectable PrEP to be introduced to the market.
Columbia University epidemiology professor Quarrasiha Karim, the PrEP is one more benefit to protecting at-risk patients from being diagnosed with HIV even when exposed. She said the negative look at daily pill use of PrEP hinders people from sticking with it. However, an injectable option, she said, would solve that answer.
She said anyway to increase PrEP coverage can help lower the HIV infection rate and to end AIDS as being a public health crisis.
Written by Mark Riegel, MD
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