CALIFORNIA: “Pill to Block HIV Tested”
Los Angeles Times (04.18.12):: Anna Gorman
Researchers announced on April 17 that California will take part in a trial of a pill to slow the spread of HIV in the state. Truvada, already approved to treat HIV infection, will be prescribed to 700 gay and bisexual men and transgender women in Los Angeles, San Diego, and Long Beach who are at high risk of infection.
“With this new prevention pill, we have another intervention to put in the arsenal to try and impact this epidemic,” said George Lemp, director of the California HIV/AIDS Research Program with the University of California president’s office.
The program awarded $11.8 million in state grants for the prevention studies and for an outreach to get about 3,000 HIV-positive Southern Californians to adhere to treatment. University of California schools, local governments, and AIDS service organizations are receiving the grants.
Although a study published in 2010 found that Truvada reduces the risk of contracting HIV by 44 percent to 73 percent, depending on how often patients took their medication, a recent Stanford study showed the drug only makes sense economically if prescribed to people at high risk, such as those with multiple partners.
Phil Curtis of AIDS Project Los Angeles said more research is needed to measure the effects of the approach in the real world. In San Diego, researchers plan to use text messages to remind people to take their pill. In Los Angeles, the level of drugs in participants’ blood will be regularly measured.
Critics say taking Truvada for prevention could lead to more men not using condoms. “Men – gay, straight, bisexual – don’t want to use condoms,” said Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. “That’s universal. If they are given another reason, then they won’t.”