A new study finds that taking an anti-human immunodeficiency virus or anti-HIV pill before and after sex could help prevent infection.
The anti-HIV pill Truvada was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in the United States in 2012. Truvada is designed to protect people from the pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) against the virus, which causes the condition known as acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS).
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), healthy individuals who take daily doses of Truvada can reduce risk of acquiring HIV during sex by over 90 percent.
In the new trial called ANRS IPERGAY trial, the study participants consisted of bisexual and homosexual men. In the randomized trial, the men were either asked to take an anti-HIV pill or a placebo bill. The pills were taken "as needed" instead of the daily dose.
Findings showed that the Truvada group was able to reduce their risk of getting new HIV infection by 86 percent compared with the placebo group. This trial's phase concluded in 2014. Following the trial's end, all of the trial participants were given Truvada. After 18 months, the total reduced HIV risk of the 362 participants was 97 percent.
The participants took two Truvada pills between two to 24 hours before engaging in sexual activities. After 24 hours, they took another pill and one more after 48 hours. For those who had regular sexual activities, the advice was to take one pill daily and another pill in the next two days following the sexual event.
For the trial's first phase, there were 6.6 new HIV infections every year per 100 people who took the placebo pill but only 0.91 new HIV cases every year per 100 people among the Truvada group.
In the second phase of the trial where all the participants took an anti-HIV pill as needed, the rate of new HIV cases fell to 0.19 per 100 people yearly.
"Participants knew the efficacy of on demand PrEP and were more inclined to use it as recommended," said Dr. Jean-Michel Molina from Paris-based Hopital Saint-Louis. Molina is one of the study's lead researchers, who added that in France, about 66.6 percent (two-thirds) of people using PrEP use the pill "on demand."
The recent findings only apply to men who have sex with men. Molina added that further studies are needed to test the PrEP's effects in other population groups. In the new study, the researchers said that the rates of condom usage also fell during the trial's past phase. The reduction was mostly observed among men who used to be committed to condom usage.
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