Oakland-based healthcare provider Kaiser Permanente announced the findings of a latest study on the use of preexposure prophylaxis (PrEP) which saw the HIV treatment help prevent new infections in a clinical practice during more than two and half years of observation.
Epidemiologist Dr. Jonathan Volk and his colleagues at the Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Medical Center discovered that using PrEP medication may prevent the development of new HIV cases even in settings with high risk.
This provides substantial evidence to support the efficacy of the drug in a real-world setting at preventing new infections. Prior to this, researchers relied only on the findings of a demonstration project and clinical trials to help understand the impact of the HIV treatment.
In an effort to curb the spread of HIV in high-risk individuals, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the daily use in fixed doses of antiviral drugs tenofovir and emtricitabine in 2012. These HIV medications are to be used together with safer sex practices to protect these individuals from contracting the infection.
People exposed to the HIV infection through sexual activity or the use of injection drugs, a combination of these drugs in a single pill (Truvada) can prevent the disease from becoming permanent.
In their study, featured in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, the Kaiser Permanente researchers monitored the development of 657 individuals who began PrEP treatment during a 32-month period. The average age of study participants was 37 years old, and around 99 percent of them were men who engaged in sexual activity with other men.
After the start of their PrEP treatment, around half of the participants contracted sexually transmitted infections, such as gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis, within a year.
After the first six months of the observation, Volk and his colleagues conducted a survey of 143 of the participants regarding their sexual behavior. They found that around 40 percent of the participants had reduced their use of condoms.
Around 74 percent of the participants reported that the number of their sexual partners had remained the same.
Earlier studies suggested that PrEP medication is relatively effective at preventing the development of HIV infection when patients take most, if not all, of their pills daily.
Volk explained that they did not take any blood samples from the participants to find out whether they were taking Truvada regularly. He said that all of the men were on PrEP medication because they asked their care doctors for the treatment, which is why the researchers presumed the participants intended to take it.