News / Health

Americans Turn to AIDS Drugs to Prevent HIV Infection

Gilead Sciences Inc. headquarters in Foster City, California, March 12, 2009 (file photo)
Gilead Sciences Inc. headquarters in Foster City, California, March 12, 2009 (file photo)

Multimedia

Derek Henkle

New research in Africa confirms that a once-a-day pill, used to treat patients infected with the virus which causes AIDS, also works to prevent HIV infection in healthy people.

For 20-year-old New Yorker James Krellenstein, the battle against HIV and AIDS is not a theoretical one.

Not yet old enough to legally buy alcohol in the U.S., Krellenstein had a scare recently, which sent him looking for an emergency treatment to keep from contracting HIV. “I didn’t use a condom, I was drunk, it was not necessarily the wisest decision in my life. He could have been HIV positive, he could have been HIV negative, I don’t know and I don’t want to spend the rest of my life dealing with HIV," he said.

James went on a month-long drug regimen that uses HIV medicines to try to keep the virus from attacking the body’s white blood cells and spreading.

Noted AIDS researcher Dr. Anthony Fauci says it's essential that this emergency therapy be applied quickly to stop HIV infection. “Because if it infects one cell and that cell dies but doesn't infect another cell then the infection is over," he said.

Doctors are already using AIDS drugs to prevent infections the way James was treated - as an emergency measure.

But three new studies now seem to confirm that Truvada, a combination pill of two anti-retroviral drugs, may also be effective as a longer-term preventive measure, for people who might be exposed to HIV.

The new studies focused on what’s called Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, or PrEP, in heterosexual couples in Africa. They confirm an earlier study showing similar results among gay men.

Dr. Raymond Martins heads an HIV/AIDS clinic in Washington. He says that while using the drugs to treat already HIV-positive patients helps keep them from transmitting it to others, PrEP is also a valuable tool to protect uninfected patients from the virus. “I’m very excited about this// We need a lot of options to prevent new HIV infections and pre-exposure prophylaxis looks like it’s going to one of those options," he said.

Researchers say using PrEP provides a 62 to 73 percent chance of preventing infection.

But while the drugs are effective, they are also expensive.

It’s at pharmacies like Whitman Walker Health that government subsidies substantially bring down the cost of these life saving medications. Though Gilead, the manufacturer, has recently made an announcement that will impact the developing world by making the medication available for as low as 21 cents per day.

Gilead has agreed to enter the UN Medicines Patent Pool, allowing their anti-retroviral drugs to be produced as a generic form for use in the developing world for both PrEP and HIV treatments.

Here in the United States, Gilead says once the US Food and Drug Administration approves this use, the company may make the PrEP drugs available through a program that helps those who can't afford prescriptions.

The medicines will still be produced as branded drugs in the United States, costing around $1,500 per month.

James Krellenstein’s story is not unique. He’s part of the only demographic in America with increasing HIV infections.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that gay and bisexual men, just 4 percent of the U.S. male population, are 44 times more likely than heterosexual men to become HIV positive.

“Most of my friends, straight or gay, don’t use a condom every time. I try to use a condom every time, I do, as a person who is relatively knowledgeable about this issue, it’s scary not to," Krellenstein said.

Despite the benefits of the PrEP drugs, some public health experts worry they may lead to complacency about condom use.

Brant Miller, like other AIDS activists, says he plans to continue aggressively promoting condoms. “It is a good way to prevent the spread of HIV that we’ve been using and has always worked, and will continue to work regardless of whether or not people have access to PrEP," he said.

James Krellenstein says he is grateful he found a doctor to prescribe him anti-retrovirals, and he credits their use with his remaining HIV negative. He now runs a website called: PEPNow.org which links those seeking treatment with doctors who can help them.

“I think the best way people can protect themselves is if they feel like they’re at risk for HIV infection, or after a high-risk sexual encounter, go to your health care practitioner as soon as possible, just so you can know the various options to prevent HIV," said Dr. Martins.

Options that have doctors and patients both hoping this little blue pill, taken daily, will become a game changer in the global struggle to end the AIDS epidemic.

You May Like

Changing Under Pressure, IS ‘Potent’ as Ever

US intel officials describe Ramadi's fall as concerning, but say it isn't emblematic of larger effort to degrade IS capabilities More

Nigeria Fuel Shortage Shows Fragility of Africa’s Oil Giant

Although it is the largest oil producer in Africa, country has nearly ran out of fuel it needs to power its generators, cars and airplanes over the past week More

Arrested Football Officials Come Mainly From the Americas

US Justice Department alleges defendants participated in 24-year scheme to enrich themselves through corruption of international soccer More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Cari
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
May 27, 2015 9:31 PM
Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.

VOA Blogs