In another advance against the spread of HIV/AIDS, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released groundbreaking results that a daily dose of antiretroviral drugs used to treat HIV infection also can reduce the spread of the virus among heterosexuals.
The latest study represents a major development because heterosexuals are the population hardest hit by HIV worldwide, according to the Center.
At a press conference, CDC officials used words like “relief” and “breakthrough” to describe the new PrEP findings, but cautioned that this therapy alone is not the solution to HIV/AIDS.
HIV testing, condom use, and other preventive measures remain indispensable, they said.
The CDC study conducted in partnership with Botswana Ministry of Health, found that a once-daily tablet containing tenofovir disoproxil fumurate and emtricitabine (TDF/FTC, known by the brand name Truvada) reduced the risk of acquiring HIV infection by roughly 63 percent overall in the study population of uninfected heterosexual men and women.
The study included a total of 1219 uninfected heterosexual male and female participants aged 18-19 in Botswana, randomly assigned to take daily the TDF/FTC pill or placebo pill.
All participants in the study were provided comprehensive HIV prevention services, including male and female condoms, intensive risk reduction behavioural counseling and testing and treatment from sexually transmitted infections.
In the primary analysis, among 601 participants who received TDC/FTC, there were nine who became infected with HIV during the study, translating into statistically significant overall reduction in risk by 62.6 percent.
US Ambassador to Botswana, Michelle Gavin, said these results may open a door to HIV prevention that until now had been closed. She commented the partnership that exists between United States and Botswana has long been important.
In a separate announcement, the University of Washington released preliminary results of the partners of PrEP study, which also found that daily PrEP reduced HIV transmission among heterosexual couples in Kenya and Uganda.
The CDC’s Principal investigator, Lynn Paxton, said, “These are exciting results for global HIV prevention. We now have findings from two studies showing that PrEP can work for heterosexuals, the population hardest hit by HIV worldwide.”
Paxton said PrEP should only be used among individuals who have been confirmed to be HIV and regular HIV testing is critical for anyone considering using PrEP. She added that all individuals considering PrEP must also be evaluated for other conditions that may impact PrEP use.
She said CDC will fully review the data from all of the heterosexual trials and will begin working with a range of stakeholders and with established guidelines development working groups to develop guidance specific to the use of PrEP among heterosexual men and women.