A recent breakthrough in pharmaceutical research could spell an end to HIV as we know it. Could this horrific virus be prevented with a once-daily pill? Doctors involved in the breakthrough Global iPrEx (“Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis”) study say yes.
Dr. Robert Grant, an investigator for the Gladstone Institutes – the biomedical research foundation that oversaw the study – will detail his findings in the conference, Science for Life: A Pill a Day Keeps HIV Away, happening today, June 23, on FORA.tv.
The iPrEx study concentrated on 2,500 people at high risk for exposure to HIV. Half were given an antiretroviral cocktail called Truvada, and the other half a placebo. The result: a 44 percent reduction in the rate of HIV infection in those taking Truvada. In addition, when participants religiously took the drug once a day, scientists found an even higher reduction in HIV infection: 73 percent lower than the placebo group.
Time magazine has already named the study the #1 medical breakthrough of 2010.
Although the upcoming conference isn’t likely to reveal any new findings, Dr. Grant will outline a new strategy to help bring about the beginning of the end for the HIV pandemic.
Among the iPrEx report’s pages, perhaps most striking is the efficacy of Truvada among a truly diverse sample group. Although the study concentrated exclusively on gay men, it was conducted over four continents – Asia, Africa, and North and South America – among a sample of men who engaged in a variety of sexual activities.
Future studies are needed and will encompass an even larger sample group, including heterosexual men and women, users of intravenous (needle) drugs, and high-risk women in the United States, Southeast Asia, Africa and South America.
The idea of using antiretroviral drugs as an HIV prevention measure – not simply as post-infection treatment – is not a new one. In fact, antiretroviral treatment of HIV-infected mothers during childbirth has seen a 75 percent decline in infants’ chances of contracting the virus. Several other studies of the preventative use of antiretrovirals have been underway among different at-risk populations, especially in Africa. The iPrEx study, however, is the first to report such positive, breakthrough findings.
This is very good news for a world where 50,000 people are contracting HIV every week, and there’s good reason organizers and attendees of the Pill a Day conference will be in high spirits.
In tune with the celebratory nature, the conference will include a drag performance by Garza, a classically trained ballet dancer, choreographer, and activist for the lesbian and gay community.