CDC Advocates AIDS Prevention Pill

May 15, 2014 11:15 AM PST

WASHINGTON — Federal health officials publicly recommended yesterday that hundred of thousands of Americans at risk for AIDS take Truvada, a drug known to prevent infection with HIV.

The drug regimen proposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, called PrEP for pre-exposure prophylaxis, would, if adopted broadly, increase the number of Truvada prescriptions in the U.S. from under to 10,000 to 500,000 — a 50-fold increase, the NY Times reported.

The guidelines advise doctors to consider prescribing the daily drug regimen to high risk demographics like gay and bi men who have sex without condoms, men and women who have a sexual partner that is already infected, and anyone who shares needles, injects drugs or sleeps with someone who does.

The CDC’s endorsement comes amid a time of troubling stats: rates of HIV infections in the U.S. have barely changed in the last decade, retaining a rate of about 50,000 a year, while condom use has reportedly fell around 20 percent from 2005 to 2011.

Although Truvada carries a relatively high price tag at $13,000 a year, it is already covered by most insurers. It is also know to be low in side effects and has become a go to-method of AIDs treatment in poor countries like India, where generic forms are manufactured.

Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute and Infectious Diseases and considered by the NY Times to be the best-known AIDS doctor, openly endorsed the CDC’s announcement.

“Making the perfect the enemy of the good is something we’ve got to get over,” Dr. Fauci said. “I strongly support the C.D.C. doing this.”

Many AIDS specialists have long advocated for the use of Truvada as a prophylactic, but some doctors and members of the gay community, notably AIDS Healthcare Foundation president Michael Weinstein, have opposed it. Critics of PrEP argue that it validates irresponsible sexual relations; Weinstein referred to it as a "party drug."

The CDC officially endorsed the preventative use of Truvada only with the use of condoms, but many doctors have acknowledged that those on the drug may be more prone to engage in unprotected sex, which leaves open the door for other STDS, like gonorrhea, herpes, syphilis and others. However, most STDs can be cured with antibiotics and almost all pose less serious health threats than AIDS when properly treated.

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