Treatment that prevents HIV is 87% effective, study reveals
The treatment which is capable of preventing HIV, known as Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis or PrEP, is already being distributed in some countries, such as the United States and France, however in many others, it is being tested solely as part of scientific studies in order to confirm its effectiveness.
Such is the case of England, where, after having carried out the PrEP IMPACT study from 2016 to 2020, we start to see the first effectiveness results, which indicate that PrEP is capable of reducing HIV infections by 87% for those who take it, as reported by the specialized website aidsmap.com.
So far, several investigations on PrEP have been mainly carried out in bisexual and gay men, as well as with trans women and, to a lesser extent, in cisgender women.
The PrEP IMPACT has studied trans women and men who identify as bisexual or gay in the United Kingdom, where the National Health Service did not immediately accept the treatment, which consists of one single pill a day, for an indefinite period of time. On the contrary, authorities argued that more data on its effectiveness was needed, so this study was carried out.
Even though research concluded in July 2020, the partial data, presented in the XVIII European AIDS Conference, show progress up to February 29 of that same year, just before the first COVID-19 pandemic lockdown started in England.
Findings and challenges
PrEP is in fact, one of the antiretroviral treatments taken by people who live with HIV, and using it prevents the virus from infecting the organism. Up until now, preventive treatment is recommended for people with a high risk of getting HIV, for example, men who do not use condoms in their sexual activity with other men, trans women who do not use condoms in their sexual activity with men, or people in general who are partners with people who live with HIV.
The results presented in the conference compared two groups, one that received PrEP and another one that did not. Among the participants in treatment there were 25 HIV infections. From these cases, only one person had taken PrEP in a way in which it was expected to be effective. We have to remember that one of the main challenges of taking antiretrovirals is good adherence to treatment.
Translated into a percentage amount, there were 87% less HIV infections in the participants that were taking PrEP.
This, concluded Dr. Ann Sullivan, leader of the study, indicates that there was a substantial reduction in HIV incidence among those who took PrEP, without anything suggesting that there was a significant biological failure, which means that failures were in how the medication was being taken and not in the medication itself.
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