Antiretroviral drugs bring hope to HIV patients

AIDS is one of the life-threatening conditions, caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). HIV interferes with the body’s immune system that fights against the organisms that cause disease.  It can take years before HIV weakens the immune system to the point that one would know he/she has AIDS.  Over 30 years, HIV has infected 40 million people. The HIV epidemic is still growing among gay and bisexual men, who now account for more than half of roughly 60,000 new HIV infections.  There is no cure for HIV/AIDS, but there are medications that can dramatically slow the progression of the disease. A recent study has shown for the first time that a combination of drugs widely used to treat AIDS virus could block new HIV infection by more than 70%. The latest research brings new hope for HIV prevention.

About the study
The study was conducted at 11 sites in South Africa, Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, Thailand and the United States by major researchers Dr. Robert M. Grant of the Gladstone Institutes of Virology and Immunology at UC San Francisco and Dr. Javier R. Lama of Investigaciones Medicas en Salud in Lima, Peru. The study involved 2,499 gay men and transgendered women who have sex with men. The participants were divided into two groups; half were given Truvada (a combination of tenofovir and emtricitabined drugs) and half received a placebo for an average of 14 months.

Researchers told that Truvada was chosen because it is highly effective, has relatively few side effects and is less likely to promote HIV resistance than other drugs. According to IMS Health, a medical information company, Truvada has become the world’s top selling AIDS drug since its approval in 2004, with more than $2 billion in sales last year,

Researchers also outlined that Gay men were chosen because they were at high risk of contracting HIV and thus could provide an effective test of the approach in a relatively short time.  Gay men account for 53% of new HIV infections in...

the United States and a significant percentage of infections in developing countries, according to Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which provided the primary funding for the trial.


About the results
After 14 months of treatment, 36 people who were getting Truvada became infected with HIV, compared with 64 infections among those getting a placebo. An analysis revealed that 34 of the 36 people in the Truvada group had a very little content of the drug in their blood, suggesting that these people weren’t taking the drug as prescribed. However, people who were had measurable amounts of Truvada in their blood showed significant reduction from the infection. On average results showed that

  • People receiving Truvada had a 43.8% reduction in risk of contracting HIV
  • People who took it more than 90% of the time had a 72.8% reduction in risk

The findings of the study released Tuesday, appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine.

This is the first study that demonstrated a successful HIV prevention approach in men with outstanding results.  The study also brings first proof that any biomedical intervention can prevent HIV infection in gay and bisexual men. Hope AIDS sufferers might be able to take the advantage of the combination drug in preventing this deadliest disease. In the United States, the drug costs from $12,000 to $14,000 per year, but it is available in generic form in many countries for as little as 40 cents per day.

Source: USA Today

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