Two HIV studies in Africa revealed today that taking a daily pill containing antiretroviral drugs can reduce HIV transmission by as much as 75% in heterosexual couples. The results were called so compelling that that larger study was halted, researchers said Wednesday.
Executive director of the AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition said that the findings are two more nails in the coffin of HIV, adding that we are seeing similar results in different populations, and that gives us more certainty that these results are real.
One trial enrolled 4,758 mixed HIV status couples in Kenya. The uninfected partner was given a daily pill containing tenofovir; one-third received tenofovir, one-third received tenofovir and emtricitabine, and one-third received a placebo pill. By the end of May, researchers detected 18 new infections among the group receiving tenofovir, 13 among those receiving emtricitabine, and 47 among those receiving the placebo pill. A 62% reduction in transmission was found amongst the group receiving tenofovir and a 73% reduction was found in those receiving emtricitabine.
The second trial, sponsored by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, enrolled 1,200 healthy sexually active males and females in Botswana. Half received tenofovir and half were given a placebo pill. Nine new infections were detected in those who took Truvada compared with 23 in those that took a placebo pill, a 62% reduction in transmission rates.
Researchers first announced that treating heterosexual 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.
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 that was released last November that found that taking anti-HIV drugs pre-exposure prophylaxis helped prevent new infection among healthy gay men.