Prepping Gay Men for PrEP

Researchers have confirmed the effectiveness of pre-exposure prophylaxis, a technique in which people who are HIV-negative use antiretroviral drugs to protect themselves from infection. But the World Health Organization and others must ensure that PrEP is available to those who need it most: gay men in the developing world.

LONDON – In October, two groups researching the effectiveness of a potential breakthrough drug in the fight against HIV did something unusual. They announced that the therapy they were testing, an antiretroviral drug called Truvada, had proved effective enough to end the randomized phases of the trials, and that they were offering the pill to all of the studies’ participants.

The researchers found that gay men who take Truvada, in addition to using condoms when they have sex, were significantly less likely to contract HIV. This is further evidence of the effectiveness of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), a technique by which people who are HIV-negative use antiretroviral drugs to protect themselves from infection. In 2011, a trial funded by the Gates Foundation found that straight couples using Truvada reduced the risk of transmitting HIV by 73%.

Those fighting to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS thus have a new tool in their arsenal. The question now is how best to deliver it to those who need it most: gay men in developing countries.

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