Controversial New HIV Prevention Pill To Be Discussed at GCCR Tomorrow Evening
As HIV gains about 50,000 new infections every year, the medical community continues to find ways to fight the epidemic. Part of this fight has led to the development of drugs which actually prevent the infection before it happens, and an event at the GCCR tomorrow night with speakers from VCU’s medical community hopes to shed some light on the future of this treatment.
Truvada, a drug which had been used for some time to treat those already infected with HIV, was approved as a pre-infection treatment by the FDA in 2012. If a patient takes the pill daily, it’s said to reduce the risk of infection by 90 percent.
But anti-HIV activists have not been subtle in their critique of the pill. “If something comes along that’s better than condoms, I’m all for it, but Truvada is not that,” Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, told the AP. “Let’s be honest: It’s a party drug.”
But there has been push back against the attacks on the treatment aswell. More from AP:
Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, medical director of the ambulatory HIV program at New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital, served on the FDA panel that recommended approving Truvada for preventive purposes and is among many doctors who hope that doubts about it fade.
“For folks who are having a significant amount of unprotected sex, it’s a slam dunk — not only giving them protective medicine, but engaging them in testing, a whole package of regular health care,” he said.
Yet Daskalakis says that out of his large clientele, only about 25 men are taking Truvada for prevention.
“There’s some interesting social pushback,” he said. “I’ve spoken to some of my patients who’d totally be candidates but are hesitant to do it. They don’t want to be labeled as people on the drug because there’s a social stigma.”
And Dr. Michael Edmund, An infectious disease Doctor at VCU Medical Center for 20 years and one of the speakers at tomorrow night’s event, said the drug is really just one tool in a war chest against the future spread of the illness which causes AIDS.
“It gives another way to reduce risk for HIV infection,” said Edmund. “It won’t do any good for those already infected, but it could be good for partners of those who are infected.”
Sadly the drug has another controversial angle: it’s cost. Edmund called up a local Walgreens and asked what it would cost for a month of treatment without insurance. The answer was about $1500.
“There’s not a great level of excitement because of the cost, it’s really not for everybody,” said Edmund. He said the requirement to take the pill daily can also be a problem. And despite all the concerns, the medical community wants to stress it’s simply another option in addition to condoms. “It’s another tool for us, but it isn’t the be all, end all. For the right patient, it makes sense.”
To get even more details on the drug and the future of its use in the gay community, come on out to the Gay Community Center of Richmond tomorrow night at 7 PM.
RVA Pop-Up Pride will host its first meeting of their LGBTQ Summer Picnic Series this weekend at Forest Hill Park. All are welcome to attend this community summer event and encouraged to pack a lunch and a blanket for the picnic. Refreshments and snacks will be provided, in addition to various activities like kickball, frisbee, [...]June 7, 2016
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