Finally, a new way to block the HIV virus


It has been nearly 40 years since the HIV virus crossed into humans and four decades of fear and suffering for tens of millions. There is still no cure for the horrific disease, but medical researchers have slowly and steadily pinned down the HIV virus before it can become full-blown AIDS.
Now researchers are optimistic that they can prevent HIV from establishing itself in human bodies.
Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is a new preventative HIV drug. Studies by the Center for Disease Control concluded that PrEP can reduce the risk of infection in people who are at high risk by 92 percent if taken correctly.
PrEP, according to the CDC, is for those who are currently HIV-negative and at a high risk for HIV. High-risk people include those in an ongoing relationship with an HIV-positive partner, who have engaged in sex without a condom within the last six months or who inject drugs.
PrEP comes in a pill form and must be taken daily to prevent infection.
Postexposure prophlaxis (PEP) is for those who need to prevent HIV after a single high-risk incident such as unprotected sex, needle-sharing injection for drug use or sexual assault. PEP must be taken within 72 hours of exposure.
Think of PrEP as birth control, while PEP is the morning after pill.
This revolutionary drug has become a much-needed sigh of relief to those who have had to live in fear of sex, especially in the gay community. Although HIV is not exclusive to gay and bisexual men, queer men are more severely affected by HIV than any other group in the United States.
Public attention on HIV has faded, but the infection rate has held at a steady 50,000 new cases a year. Much like the birth control pill in the 1960s, PrEP has been stigmatized. Some argue that PrEP will give users a license to have carefree, unprotected, promiscuous sex, which can lead to a rise in other infections like syphilis.
While PrEP may seem like the answer to the HIV battle, it still has its drawbacks including its high cost.
There is only one FDA-approved PrEP, Truvada, and no generic brand in the United States. Truvada can cost up to $14,000 a year. Lab costs and routine monitoring run about $180 a year.
A generic version has been approved overseas that will cut the cost down to $2,700 a year. Unfortunately, the generic version will not be available in the United States until 2017.
Some doctors are still reluctant to prescribe the drug. Like the birth control pill, PrEP must be taken daily and there is that chance that a patient will not take the drug consistently. There is no room for human error when it comes to HIV.
Even though HIV runs rampant in some communities now, it will be hard to get PrEP into the hands of those who need it most. That must change.


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