HIV Prevention Pill May Not Need to Be Taken Daily

HIV Prevention Pill May Not Need to Be Taken Daily Research suggests Truvada still works when taken before and after sex
WebMD News from HealthDay

By Randy Dotinga

HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Dec. 1, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- New research suggests that men at risk for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, can benefit from a preventive medication taken before and after sex instead of every day.

The findings offer more support for so-called pre-exposure prophylaxis, better known as PrEP, which has become popular in the gay male community.

"Our study provides an alternative choice for gay men. They can use PrEP either daily or on demand," said study lead author Dr. Jean-Michel Molina, a professor of infectious diseases at the University of Paris Diderot.

However, PrEP is not a guarantee against HIV infection, and it must be taken properly to provide protection, the researchers stressed. Two participants in the study who were offered the medication, known as Truvada, developed HIV because they failed to follow directions, the study authors said.

The study was released online Dec. 1 in the New England Journal of Medicine to coincide with World AIDS Day.

Truvada is a combination of two antiviral medications that blocks infection with HIV by preventing the virus from reproducing in the cells it targets, Molina said.

The growth of the drug has skyrocketed over the past couple of years. According to a presentation at the 10th International Conference on HIV Treatment and Prevention Adherence earlier this year, more than 22,000 people have used PrEP in the United States since 2012, with the number growing significantly in recent months.

At issue: Can people protect themselves from HIV if they don't take the medication every day as recommended? The study explored one option: taking the drug before potentially risky sexual activity -- if a person knows he'll be sexually active -- and afterward.

In France and Canada, researchers assigned 199 participants to take the drug and another 201 to take a placebo. All the participants were gay and bisexual men at high risk of HIV infection, and they were told to take the pills two to 24 hours before sexual activity and afterward.

The participants took the pills a median -- not an average -- of 15 times a month, but an analysis showed that only 43 percent took them correctly the most recent time they had sex. The rest didn't take a big enough dose or didn't take the drug at all.

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