News / Africa

A Step Closer to Major HIV Prevention Method

Gilead Science's Truvada combination antiretroviral pill that's taken once daily.Gilead Science's Truvada combination antiretroviral pill that's taken once daily.
Gilead Science's Truvada combination antiretroviral pill that's taken once daily.
Gilead Science's Truvada combination antiretroviral pill that's taken once daily.


Joe DeCapua
A U.S. government panel has recommended the use of a once daily pill to help prevent HIV infection. The pill has been shown to be very effective in studies. The Food and Drug Administration, the FDA, now has until June 15 to decide whether to approve the panel’s recommendation.

The Food and Drug Administration’s Antiviral Drugs Advisory Committee has endorsed the use of Truvada as a prevention method.

Mitchell Warren, head of the AIDS advocacy group AVAC, says it’s a combination pill.

“It’s made up of two different antiretrovirals – tenofovir and emtricitabine. And those two drugs had already been approved by the FDA a number of years ago individually; and then about 8 years ago they were approved as the combination drug. But all of those approvals related to the use of the drug for treating people who are already infected with HIV,” he said.

But since it now would be used as a prevention method it needs new FDA approval.

Warren said, “It’s the first time that the FDA is considering a pill for prevention of HIV. The data presented came from a number of trials looking at the potential benefit of providing this drug to HIV uninfected people, who are at high risk of HIV in hopes of preventing transmission.”

The evidence is based on trials where participants included men who have sex with men and discordant couples. That’s where one partner is infected and the other is not. The prevention method is called preexposure prophylaxis.

“If you are at risk of HIV, if you perceive yourself to be at risk, if you’re able to take this pill everyday as part of a combination of activities, including getting frequent HIV testing, you can reduce your risk of infection quite substantially. And that’s a huge step forward in adding a new option for men and women to prevent HIV,” he said.

The FDA often follows the recommendations of its advisory committees, but approval is not guaranteed. The agency must consider a number of things before deciding. One is what would the drug label say? Would it list only specific high risk groups like men who have sex with men or recommend it for both men and women?

It also must require the manufacturer – Gilead – to produce a risk evaluation and mitigation strategy. This would help ensure safe and effective use of Truvada, including extensive training for health providers and testing to ensure people are indeed HIV negative before taking the pill.

Warren says another big issue affecting Truvada is cost.

“One often hears in the United States where this is described as a $14,000 a year pill. Rarely does anyone pay that. And one of the really exciting things – when Gilead presented all of the data they actually said publically that they plan to create a patients assistance program. So if you are HIV infected and don’t have insurance, there are programs that Gilead supports to make the drug available at very low cost or in some cases even free,” he said.

The drug would be much cheaper in developing countries, possibly several hundred dollars a year. But that’s still high by developing country standards. Warren says that price could be negotiated and reduced if PEPFAR, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, plan to use Truvada.

You May Like

Video Russia’s Syrian Escalation Tests Obama’s Crisis Response

Critics once again question whether president has been slow to act on Syrian conflict, thus creating opening for powers like Russia More

Ancient African DNA Shows Mass Migration Back Into Africa

First genetic analysis of ancient human remains in Africa suggests massive migration from north around time of Egyptian empire More

NASA: Pluto Has Blue Sky

New photos also reveal the presence of water ice More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugeesi
Henry Ridgwell
October 08, 2015 8:02 PM
Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs