Thursday, July 14, 2011

Drug Stops HIV Spread

An AIDS drug already shown to help prevent spread of the virus in gay men also works for heterosexual men and women, two studies in Africa found. Experts called it a breakthrough for the continent that has suffered most from AIDS.

The prevention drug is Truvada, a pill already on pharmacy shelves to treat people with HIV. It’s made by Gilead Sciences Inc. of Foster City, Calif. Another Gilead drug, Viread, was also used in one of the two African studies.

Earlier research with Truvada found it prevented spread of HIV to uninfected gay men. But experts were thrilled Wednesday at the first compelling evidence that AIDS medications can prevent infection between men and women. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which gave advice last fall for use of the preventive drugs among gays, is now developing guidance for heterosexuals in this country.

At the same time, national and international health officials said it’s far from clear how preventive use of these drugs will play out.

In [the] studies, participants also were offered counseling and free condoms, which may help explain the relatively low overall infection rate.

A 30-day supply of Truvada costs about $900 in U.S. pharmacies, and the same amount of Viread costs about $600. Prices charged in developing countries are much lower, but still can be hard to shoulder.


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