Thursday, August 5, 2010

Get Prepared for PrEP: "Treatment as Prevention" Moves Ahead

Via The Body, by Angela Bronner Helm

What if you could use a product -- and not a condom -- to prevent getting infected with HIV? That may feel like a fantasy, but it's actually edging closer to reality.

At the XVIII International AIDS Conference in Vienna, Austria, the exciting South African CAPRISA study showed that using a microbicide gel containing an anti-retroviral (ARV) drug before and after sex can prevent HIV in women at least 39 percent of the time. Many believe this good news is a major step in the notion of "treatment as prevention."

"[The CAPRISA study] folds into an even grander dream which is Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), an oral pill that an HIV-uninfected person takes to prevent infection," said Science magazine reporter Jon Cohen, author of that magazine's coverage of CAPRISA and Shots in the Dark: The Wayward Search for an AIDS Vaccine, in an interview on Tuesday. "It's a hugely promising approach because this says if [the microbicide] works, then [PrEP] has a high likelihood of working. And if PrEP works, then we have a whole new way to look at treatment as prevention."

Giving those who are not infected with a disease medicine to prevent it is not a new concept. This is how malaria is prevented. But around HIV specifically, the science hasn't yet proven that it's an effective or practical form of prevention -- though the success of the microbicide research is raising expectations. Over the six-day conference in Vienna a number of panels discussed PrEP. Despite plenty of hope, no definitive answers emerged in response to the questions surrounding its use.

For more click here.

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