Truvada - A Pill That May Prevent HIV Infection

Truvada - A Pill That May Prevent HIV Infection

A global study has found gay men who faithfully take daily doses of the HIV drug Truvada can slash the risk of catching the infection by an astonishing 73%.

Blood tests of drug levels verified that more consistent pill-taking offered better protection. Researchers say Truvada was used in combination with counseling, condoms and other prevention methods.

Researchers were concerned the pills might cause gay men to disregard safe sex practices and become more inclined to engage in risky sexual behavior. Dr. Kevin Fenton, AIDS prevention chief at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cautioned that "It's not time for gay and bisexual men to throw out their condoms."

Truvada Side Effects and Cost

Truvada appears to cause only minimal side effects, which may include weight loss and nausea. Additional studies are needed to determine potential long-term risks of the drug. Despite the encouraging findings, taking Truvada every day may not be practical for many healthy gay men. The pills can cost $5,000 to $14,000 annually in the U.S.

Prevalence of HIV

Although strides have been made in the global war against HIV/AIDs, the epidemic persists. An estimated 56,300 new HIV infections are diagnosed each year in the U.S. Some 21% of those with HIV don’t realize they are infected. Since the HIV/AIDS epidemic began in the U.S. in 1981, nearly 566,000 people have lost their battle with AIDS.

Approximately 33 million people are living with HIV worldwide, according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). As of November, 2010 no vaccine exists to prevent HIV infection nor is there a cure for HIV/AIDS.

Symptoms of HIV

Few if any symptoms may be present in the early stages of HIV infection. That’s why it’s important to get tested regularly for HIV, cautions the NIAID. Symptoms often begin surface within four to eight after being infected, although some people infected with HIV remain symptomless for 10 years or longer.

You may experience fever, fatigue, headache and other flu-like symptoms, along with enlarged lymph nodes in the groin and neck area. In later stages, the HIV virus severely compromises the immune system. Symptoms may include extreme fatigue, rapid weight loss, chronic diarrhea, night sweats, and sores on the genitals, anus or mouth. Depression, memory loss and other brain malfunctions may occur.

Written by Mark Riegel, MD

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