HIV Controversy: A Pill for Prevention?

Truvada can cost $10,000 a year

BOSTON, Mass (Ivanhoe Newswire) - Seen as a milestone by some, it recently became the first drug to be approved by the FDA to prevent the spread of HIV.

The president of the Aids Healthcare Foundation says it will ultimately set back years of HIV prevention efforts and many agree with him.

Theresa Nowlin contracted HIV in the 1980's.

"I was like, walking dead," explained Theresa Nowlin an HIV patient.

Today, she is healthy, and to treat the virus she takes one pill a day made up of three medications.

"That has everything in it that I need," said Nowlin.

Her medication includes the drug Truvada. Now, the FDA has approved Truvada, by itself, to prevent HIV. Theresa's thinks it's an amazing step.

"It's going to make a difference in a lot of people's lives," said Nowlin.

Taking Truvada daily can stop the virus from replicating.

"So even if that one copy gets inside of a cell, it can't do anything," explained Kenneth Mayer, MD, of the Fenway Institute Medical Research Director.

While condoms are still the best protection, Doctor Kenneth Mayer of the Fenway Institute believes Truvada is another good option to fight HIV and could benefit couples where one partner is positive and the other is not.

"There are many people who have been concerned that this medication may increase risky practices," said Dr. Mayer.

"I am very leery of opening Truvada to everybody," said Scott Galinsky who is living with HIV.

Scott Galinsky is HIV positive and is worried the drug will promote bad choices, like unsafe sex.

"Coming from that community of risky behavior and drug addiction, I think it just kind of gives free reign to them," said Galinsky.

Studies are being conducted to see if Truvada can be taken less frequently and still be effective.

If not covered by insurance, Truvada can cost $10,000 a year.

But, when its patent expires in 2017, Mayer said the price could drop to $100 annually.

Research Summary

BACKGROUND: Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is the virus that causes AIDS. The disease weakens a person's ability to fight infections and cancer. HIV attacks and destroys a type of white blood cells called CD4 (or T-cell). The main purpose of the T-cell is to fight disease. AIDS is the more advanced stage of HIV infection. When the T-cell count drops too low, the infected person loses the ability to fight off infection. Approximately 1,000,000 people in the US have been diagnosed with AIDS since it was first discovered in 1981. An estimated 583,298 people have died from this disease in the US. A person can get HIV when an infected person's body fluids enter their bloodstream. (Source: webmd.com)

RISK FACTORS: The most common ways people get HIV are from sharing needles to take drugs, having unprotected sex with an infected person, receiving a blood transfusion from an infected person, or born from a mother who was infected. Common myths about how one can become infected are touching or hugging an infected person, public bathrooms, swimming pools, sharing cups, sharing telephones, and bug bites. The only way to tell if you are infected is to take an HIV test. Signs that HIV is turning into AIDS include: a fever that will not break, sweating while sleeping, feeling tired all the time, feeling sick all the time, losing weight, oral thrush, and swollen glands. (Source: webmd.com)

NEW TECHNOLOGY: There is no cure for HIV/AIDS, but a new controversial breakthrough has people talking. The FDA approved a drug treatment called Truvada. Truvada is already approved for the treatment of HIV in infected patients. It lowers the amount of virus circulating in people's blood. Now clinical trials are showing that it can also protect those who are not infected who are in the high risk group of people if they take the drug before and after exposure. On one side of this controversy, it prevents people from becoming infected, people who are in a relationship with someone infected by HIV or are engaged with high-risk behaviors like IV drugs. For example, in one study healthy gay men who took Truvada daily lowered their risk of becoming infected by 42%. In another study involving heterosexual couples where one partner was infected, the uninfected partner experienced a 75% lower risk. So then why is Truvada controversial? Experts believe that healthy people may not take the drug correctly causing HIV to become resistant to the medication. Also officials worry that it would promote unsafe and risky behaviors among the HIV community. Patients will, however, receive a comprehensive HIV protection plan involving regular HIV testing to ensure safety. (Source: truvada.com)