Taking a pill a day to prevent HIV infection
Posted Thursday, June 28 2012 at 23:30
- Organisation says preventive drug will be used under strong regulations
The World Health Organisation is developing guidelines which, for the first time, will allow the use of a daily pill to prevent HIV infection.
These prescription drugs, Tenofovir and Truvada, are available in the country for use as anti-retrovirals in combination with others but not as drugs medically called Pre-exposure Prophylaxis or PreP.
Two weeks ago, the world health agency recommended that all married HIV positive people whose partners are not infected be put on anti-retrovirals irrespective of their viral loads.
This was as a result of studies which showed that if the HIV positive partner is put on early medication this reduced infection to the partner by 96 per cent.
Studies carried out in Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and elsewhere showed that taking a daily dose of Tenofovir or Truvada significantly protected one from HIV infection.
WHO is now working on guidelines on how to use the drug for HIV prevention.
Major decisions on when and to whom these pills will be available are expected to be made at the 19th International Aids Conference planned for Washington, US next month.
While the global health organisation promises to have the guidelines ready by July next year it also indicates that people may not wait that long to know whether they can indeed get and use the pill to cheat HIV.
“While the publication of the full set of comprehensive guidelines is planned for July 2013, WHO will continue to publish specific recommendations ahead of time to facilitate timely decision making in specific countries,” it says in a statement.
These developments come barely three weeks after a technical committee with the US Federal Drug Administration (FDA), advised that Truvada, manufactured by Gilead Sciences, be approved for use as a daily pill for HIV prevention.
Normally FDA follows the recommendations of the technical committee and is expected to make a decision by September.
An approval would dramatically change the management of HIV in the world for the first time providing the first medicine for prevention.
“From here we would expect the WHO to provide guidelines and then as a country we would need to know who should be the priority target and how the medicine will be regulated to avoid abuse,” a leading HIV programme manager told the Nation yesterday on condition of anonymity.
WHO is considering that such a preventive drug would remain under strong regulations and should first be targeted at high risk groups such as prostitutes, homosexuals, drug injectors and prisoners.
Gilead Sciences have said they are prepared to work with the Global Fund and the WHO to make the drugs available to poor countries at a discounted price.