The use of anti-HIV medicine to prevent gay and bisexual men from becoming infected with HIV has been given further support.
Known as pre-exposure prophylaxis, PrEP involves HIV-negative people taking antiretroviral drugs (that are usually used to treat HIV) to reduce their risk of becoming infected.
Previous studies have shown that it can dramatically reduce the risk of HIV infection, by up to 92%, if taken daily as prescribed.
On Saturday, America’s leading LGBT rights group, Human Rights Campaign (HRC), officially endorsed the use of PrEP, calling it “a critically important tool that must be part of any and all efforts to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the United States”
“PrEP is a dose of hope, taken once daily. Today, there is an unprecedented chance to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the United States, in part through PrEP’s aggressive prevention of new HIV infections,” said HRC President Chad Griffin.
“There is no reason—medical or otherwise—to discourage individuals from taking control of their sexual health and talking to their doctor about PrEP. Bold action must be taken to guarantee affordable access to this life-changing regimen,” he added.
HRC noted that its recommendation applies especially to populations deemed most vulnerable to HIV infection and that it may not be right for all individuals.
Earlier last week, an interim analysis from a study in the UK found that PrEP “is highly protective against HIV for gay men and other men who have sex with men.”
The PROUD study was designed as a pilot to find out if it would be feasible to conduct a larger study to answer a number of outstanding questions about PrEP.
These include: Will men take the tablets regular as required?; Will resistance become an issue?; What effect with it have on sexual behaviour; and; Will PrEP be cost-effective?
The promising preliminary results mean that the study will continue; the researchers calling it “a major step forward towards the control of HIV transmission in gay men in the UK.”
PrEP use by gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men has already been endorsed by America’s Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organisation (WHO).
PrEP is not currently offered in public hospitals and clinics in South Africa, although those who can afford to pay for it may request a prescription from a private doctor or a gay-friendly clinic, such as OUT in Pretoria. The use of PrEP will require regular HIV tests and monitoring.