Users of HIV pill have remained HIV free, insurer says

San Francisco’s largest private insurer announced Wednesday that a pill used to prevent HIV transmission has been highly successful. Not one of the 657 patients have contracted HIV, over 2 years.

The outcome of this study directly contradicts concerns that the existence of pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, would lead to less patients using condoms, and therefore increase HIV transmission, The New York Times reports.

Clinical Infectious Diseases found in a study that although condom use did decrease, patients did not contract HIV. They did, however, still contract other venereal diseases. Unlike HIV, most other sexually transmitted infections can be treated with antibiotics. The treatment of HIV requires a lifetime of antiretroviral drugs.

While the study is not as rigid as those conducted in clinical trials, where a placebo is utilized, an epidemiologist for Kaiser Permanente, says the study, “tells us that PrEP works even in a high-risk population.”

A 2014 clinical study, nicknamed the Proud Trial, that utilized a placebo, ended in 9 HIV infections and was discontinued after researchers found it to be unethical to continue, with the evidence that the preventive pill works.

653 of the participants in the study were gay males, with 84 percent reporting multiple sexual partners. After six months of using the drug, 143 of the participants were interviewed about their sexual behaviors.  Over 40 percent reported less condom use. The majority stated that their number of sexual partners had remained the same.

While the study did not blood test patients to determine the frequency at which they took the pills, prior studies showed that PrEP is at its most effective when taken daily.

The increased rates of syphilis and chlamydia may have been in part to the availability of PrEP, however rates of other venereal diseases were already on the rise in the area, among gay men. The Proud Trial noted the same trend, and linked it to a concept called “sero sorting,” where men of same HIV status elect to not wear a condom, or where men without HIV consent to condom-less sex with infected individuals who regularly took their antiretroviral treatments, leaving their level of HIV so low that it is almost certain it cannot be transmitted to an HIV negative individual.

Doctors urge those in San Francisco who feel that they might be at risk to talk to their doctor to see if the drug is right for them.

 

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