Truvada, the once-a-day drug to prevent infection with HIV could be offered to thousands of men on the NHS.  Truvada, is pre-exposure prophylaxis medication(PrEP). It prevents new infections by killing the virus before it has a chance to take hold in the body.  A report has found that giving PrEP alongside regular HIV testing and early treatment to a quarter of men at high risk of contracting the virus could prevent more than 40% of new infections, and there are calls for it to be available through the NHS.

Research published in The Lancet HIV (an online journal for HIV research) suggests that if all MSM were offered the drug, infection rates would drop by 59% preventing 10,000 new cases by 2020.  However, it also claims that if the drug was only given to the most ‘at risk’, it would stop thousands of new infections every year.

The researchers, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, also used data to estimate there would be 16,955 new cases of HIV in gay men by 2020.  MSM currently account for around half of all new infections.

“PrEP works very well to prevent HIV when taken every day. ” Dr Michael Brady, medical director of Terrence Higgins Trust said this was evidence of Truvada working better than had been previously thought.   He said “What this shows is that it is highly effective at preventing HIV. If you take this drug, you will not get HIV which is incredible”.  They key to the success of Truvada is taken the medication regularly, which has been thought to be an issue between the medical trials for the drug and its real-life use.  Dr Brady said “This is why this study is so important as it shows it in a real life setting. It proves that when it is used with those who are most at risk as part of a combined approach with other preventions and regular testing, it can stop thousands of men from getting HIV”.

1 in 26 gay men in the UK estimated to be HIV positive, rising sharply to one in eight in London.  If use of truvada is approved in the summer, it would only be prescribed to patients via specialist sexual health clinics, rather than by GPs.  The NHS is currently considering whether to start offering the drug on prescription with a decision expected in summer.  An NHS England spokesperson said: ‘We want to see reductions in new transmissions of HIV infection and are already investing in programmes to achieve this”.

Better2Know can test for HIV 10 days after exposure. We have a number of different HIV tests, including the 5th Generation test and Instant Testing across the UK.  Please visit our HIV pages for more information.

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