A controversial new preventative pill designed to lower vulnerability to HIV infection is being described as a "game changer". The trials involving 450 gay men are being carried out in Australia.
Over recent years Australia is stepping up its fight against HIV partly due to the results of 2012 in which the number of new HIV cases in Australia hit a 20 year high. Following that 20 year high Australia has not managed to reduce the new HIV infection rate. Up until now that fight has been limited to safe sex education, more HIV testing and awareness for early HIV infection detection, availability of HIV home test kits and once infected counselling and anti-viral drug regimes.
Once possible new weapon in the war on HIV infection in Australia and of course the rest of the world may come in the shape of the Truvada PrEP pill.
One subject aged 32 has been taking the pill for the past 15 months as one of participants in the Melbourne based trial.
He says, "This is a game changer in terms of people feeling like they have opted in and taken responsibility for themselves,”
"It doesn't rely on someone else being responsible enough to put on a condom; it doesn't put your protection in the hands of someone else.
"I wake up in the morning, I take the pill and I've taken responsibility for myself."
The pre-exposure prophylaxis pill contains antiretroviral drugs which help stop (but do not guarantee) HIV negative people becoming infected after exposure to the virus.
Whilst of course this will “reduce” infections individuals need to be aware that it is not a 100% guaranteed form of protection. At its best it could be compared to the contraceptive pill which is more or less considered totally effective, yet each year woman taking the medication do become pregnant. Such an exception in this case where the individual practices un protected sex yet believes they are protected from the pre-exposure medication would result in the individual becoming HIV positive.
It is too early to know what % of “exceptions” would occur but while this would appear to be a potential breakthrough in the fight against HIV and could lead to other effective preventions or treatments it currently would appear to carry a very large consequence for what may be a small or unknown risk percentage.
On top of that you have the side effects of the antivirals.
Regardless of your opinion on this path of science, it certainly warrants more research and observation. We look forward to seeing where this takes the fight against HIV.