Two studies have confirmed that a daily pill containing HIV-combating drugs can be used to prevent infection in the healthy. One of the studies was conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Botswana Ministry of Health and the other was conducted by the University of Washington and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
In the University of Washington study, serodiscordant (mixed HIV status) heterosexual couples saw a 73% decrease in rates of transmission when this method was employed. Similarly, the CDC study, which involved healthy, sexually active men and women, found that taking antiretroviral drugs reduced risk by 63%.
Researchers first announced that treating HIV patients with antiretroviral drugs overwhelmingly decreases risk of transmission in heterosexual couples May 12 after a study employed 1,763 serodiscordant couples; half of the couples began treatment while the other half waited for progression to more severe symptoms. The group that immediately began treatment suffered one HIV transmission. The other group? 27.
AIDS researcher and professor at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa Salim Abdool Karim said, I was bowled over. He added, we have a real chance to turn the tide on the HIV epidemic.
The Wall Street Journal said that the global community has been struggling to come up with enough funds to treat those with advanced AIDS symptoms-let alone those at earlier stages of the disease.
The age-old battle over funding prevention versus treatment has seemingly died. Experts who have relentlessly advocated for educating the healthy rather than healing the already dead will likely see that prevention can be used as an extension of treatment.
The results also confirmed a study released last November that found that taking anti-HIV drugs pre-exposure prophylaxis helped prevent new infection among healthy gay men.