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

Photogallery Pistorius Sentenced, Taken to Prison

Pistorius, convicted of culpable homicide in shooting death of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, will likely serve about 10 months of five-year sentence, before completing it under house arrest More

UN to Aid Central Africa in Polio Vaccinations

Synchronized vaccinations will be conducted after Cameroon reports a fifth case of the wild polio virus in its territory More

WHO: Ebola Vaccine May Be in Use by Jan.

WHO assistant director Dr. Marie Paule Kieny says clinical trials of Ebola vaccines are underway or planned in Europe, US and Africa 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.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid