10 things you need to know about the pill to prevent HIV
It’s been called, simultaneously, a medicine to “end the HIV epidemic” and a “party drug:” Pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP for short, refers to a daily antiviral treatment that prevents HIV.
That’s right: People who don’t have the virus can take a pill a day to save themselves from getting infected.
Haven’t heard about PrEP? You’re probably not alone. The drug-maker, Gilead, doesn’t advertise Truvada (its brand name) for prevention, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention only endorsed it this past May—two years after it hit the market.
Going forward, however, you’ll be hearing a lot more. This month, both the International Antiviral Society-USA and the World Health Organization—opinion leaders in medicine—backed the antiviral, recommending all HIV-negative at-risk individuals consider taking it as part of a strategy to reduce the global incidence of the disease. But there’s a lot more to the story. Here’s what you need to know:
- Public health officials aren’t recommending this pill for “all gay men,” despite what the headlines say
- Truvada is not a condom replacement
- We don’t yet know exactly how the drug will be used in real life
- We do know Truvada only works effectively when taken every day
- Truvada can cause drug-resistant HIV infection
- Besides that, it’s pretty safe
- “Truvada whores” are a thing
- Uptake has been slow—but that’s not the full story
- The drug is expensive
- HIV remains a socioeconomic crisis in America and around the world
First published on vox.com – 21 July 2014