The battle against HIV has taken a stunning turn. Scientists have shown the effectiveness of taking two pills before and two pills after sex to reduce the risk of HIV infection.
While previous research has confirmed that taking antiretroviral medicine, known as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), on an ongoing daily basis by HIV negative men provides considerable protection against HIV infection, the French-Canadian ANRS Ipergay study is unique.
It instead looked at the effects of offering PrEP “on demand”, just before and after possible exposure. The participants in the study took two pills 12 hours before they thought they might have sex and then two more pills the following day if they did indeed have sex.
And the result, say the researchers, was a “very significant reduction in the risk of HIV infection.”
According to AIDSMap, the scientists didn’t immediately offer more details, with the complete results of the study expected to be released early next year.
“The biomedical concept of on-demand PrEP at the time of sexual exposure, in a broader prevention framework, is validated. We owe this to all trial volunteers without whom we could never have achieved these results,” said Principal Investigator Professor Jean-Michel Molina .
He noted that “condoms remain the cornerstone of HIV prevention. Combining all prevention tools that have proved to be effective will certainly allow us to better control the HIV epidemic.”
While no one approach is foolproof, the news adds to the growing mix of strategies that gay and bisexual men are able to use to reduce their risk of becoming infected with HIV.
Earlier this month, an interim analysis from the PROUD study in the UK found that daily use of PrEP “is highly protective against HIV for gay men and other men who have sex with men.”
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 gay-friendly clinics, such as OUT in Pretoria or Health4Men in Johannesburg and Cape Town. The use of PrEP will require regular HIV tests and monitoring.