You may have already heard that the US FDA has recently approved a new drug to fight the spread of HIV. Clinical trials of Truvada have shown that the drug can be effective in reducing the transmission of HIV. This is, of course, great news in terms of slowing the transmission of the virus.
That said, there are so many factors involved in HIV transmission and prevention, and it’s difficult to say exactly how Truvada might actually impact transmission rates. For one, it’s expensive, at nearly $14,000 per year. When you consider who is at highest risk for HIV, those people are not likely to have an extra $14k sitting around for this drug. While financial aid is available to those who are HIV+ it is not offered to those testing negative (aka the target market for this drug).
Secondly, trials have shown that it’s most effective if taken daily … and medication compliance isn’t exactly a “for sure” thing at the best of times. The article I read stated that even study participants struggled with taking the drug every day. Factor in real life and who knows what the numbers might actually be.
HIV is a complicated virus and has proven to be very good at adapting to its environment … and becoming resistant to drugs used to treat it. The same could happen with Truvada, if taken by people who are already HIV+. This is yet another potential roadblock. Although people are required to be tested for HIV prior to taking Truvada, there’s still the risk of someone being tested before HIV antibodies are detectable in their bloodstream. This means that someone can be taking Truvada but actually be HIV+, which would increase the risk of the virus developing a resistance to Truvada.
Overall, it’s a hesitant step, but a step forward nonetheless! Fingers crossed that this drug lives up to its potential and makes a dent in the approximately 50,000 new cases of HIV in the US every year.