Should we rejoice? New AIDS drug, Truvada, promises to prevent infection

by Isi Esene

A new drug to prevent the spread of HIV has been approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the United States.

The drug, Truvada, is made by Gilead Sciences, Inc. It is a combination of two HIV drugs, Emtricitabine (Emtriva) and Tenofovir (Viread). The two are combined into one pill to be taken daily.

Studies have shown that pre-exposure to prophylaxis or PrEP reduces transmission of HIV to uninfected partners by 96% if they’ve used Truvada.

Dr. Debra Birnkrant, medical director, of the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, says that the drug should not be taken to prevent HIV infection.

She said: “Practicing safer sex and good health practices must [also] be part of the treatment. We will be putting a box warning to let those using Truvada know that it is part of the therapy with combination of safer sex practices, and that doing this, will reduce the risk of the development of AIDS/HIV.”

This is to caution potential Truvada users on the need to be careful when making sexual choices and to be mindful that abstinence is still the best protection to safe-guard against AIDS/HIV.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Insitutes of Health, also warned that the drug can only make a person safer but gives no guarantees if not effectively and intelligently used.

Fauci explained saying, “The approval of Truvada to prevent HIV infection in uninfected individuals who are at high risk of sexually acquired HIV infection is a significant development, providing an important addition to our toolkit of HIV prevention interventions.

“However, it is critical to stress that Truvada as ‘pre-exposure prophylaxis’ should not be considered a stand-alone method, but should be used in conjunction with other proven HIV prevention strategies such as condom use, risk-reduction counselling, and frequent HIV testing.”

Truvada’s approval is a welcome news to Africans due the high prevalence of HIV in many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. An estimated 3.6 percent of the population of Nigeria are living with AIDS/HIV, this figure is however moderate compared to several other African countries like South Africa and Zambia.

There are however many questions yet to be answered on the conditions for the use of Truvada, many wonder if it can be used in marriages where there is a distrust in a partner’s sexual actions or in dating situations where people expect to have sex with new partners.

Many people have died from contacting the disease from their partners and more are being infected everyday.

Truvada will make a difference, but smart choices among users will make an even bigger difference in the fight against AIDS/HIV.

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