Just last month, the White House has released an update on its strategy to combat HIV/AIDS throughout the country. Part of its goal is a vision where “new HIV infections are rare” and that when new infections happen, people will have “unfettered access to high quality, life-extending care” while remaining “free from stigma and discrimination.”
Among the initiatives was a pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to help prevent HIV. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the FDA had approved the specific drug combination consisting of 300 milligrams tenofovir disoproxil fumarate and 200 milligrams emtricitabine (TDF/FTC) as a PrEP in 2012, combined with safer sex practices.
These are the components of a pill created by Gilead Sciences known as Truvada. And according to the CDC PrEP fact sheet, Truvada was actually approved by the FDA for use as an HIV treatment back in 2004 before it was also approved as a PrEP back in July 2012.
According to Truvada’s treatment website, Truvada is actually a nucleoside analog reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NRTI) that can be used to treat HIV-1 infection among adults and teenagers aged 12 and above. Based on the drug components stated earlier, Truvada is a pill that combines the power of two medicines. Moreover, it has to be used in combination with other anti-HIV medicines because it is not capable of treating HIV-1 infection on its own.
Meanwhile, with regard to the pill being a PrEP, Truvada can help decrease one’s chances of getting infected with HIV-1 with the help of safer sex practices. For those at high risk of getting HIV-1 infected through sex, Truvada can work to block “the action of a protein that HIV-1 needs to infect the body (HIV-1 reverse transcriptase).”
According the CDC, several clinical trials had demonstrated the effectiveness of PrEP. A study among heterosexually active men and women found that PrEP managed to reduce the risk of getting HIV by 62%. Moreover, study conducted among gay and bisexual men revealed that those who were given PrEP were 44% less likely to get infected with HIV compared to those who were given a placebo.
Meanwhile, as effective as Truvada may be, PBS recently reported that the Latino community is not exactly embracing the PrEP pill. A good number of the said community has already heard about Truvada, but are expressing reluctance to try the pill due to costs and side effects.
Taking Truvada for PrEP regularly can reportedly cost as much as $1,300 a month. As for side effects, taking Truvada can actually lead to “serious liver problems,” excessive lactic acid in the blood and “worsening of hepatitis B (HBV) infection.”