A new drug, known as Truvada, has shown game changing results in fighting HIV. In a study of 650 individuals who took the drug over three years no HIV infections were detected in the trial group, demonstrating that the drug works in a real-world setting.
The clinical trial by Kaiser Permanente involved sexually active participants many of whom did not use condoms for protection. Half of the group contracted other sexually transmitted diseases during the study.
Truvada was originally intended as a treatment for HIV itself, but has now been shown to reduce the risk of infection for high risk individuals by at least 92 percent.
The drug must be taken daily and has a cost of around $50 a month for Kaiser patients, while the uninsured cost is around $1,500 a month. Side effects from the drug were minor and did not present in the majority of study participants.
Critics of the medication claim that it promotes unsafe sex, referring to the 41 percent of participants in the study who decreased their condom use. Study participants were also asked about other changes in sexual behavior, with 74 percent reporting no change in their number of sexual partners, 15 percent reporting a decrease, and 11 percent reporting an increase.
Michael Weinstein of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation is one of the critics, and decries the fact that Truvada’s availability is giving today’s generations a false sense of security. The CDC disagreed with this assessment, stating that the drug should be used as a prophylactic among those who have a high risk of infection. That group could include sex workers, those with HIV-positive partners, and IV drug users.
San Francisco health advocates view the drug as a means to success for its Getting to Zero program, which aims to make San Francisco the first city in the nation to bring its incidence of new HIV infections to zero, along with deaths from the disease.